Saturday, January 11, 2014

Save NYC's Horse Carriages

Some of you have hopefully heard about the recent "promise" of the newly-elected Mayor of New York City to ban the iconic horse-drawn carriages from Central Park.  This is causing a huge buzz in the horse community, and hopefully outside of it in the mainstream media as well (and deservedly so!).  The carriage community has had a long battle with animal rights activists, who spread lies about the carriage horses being abused or overworked, living in poor conditions, etc.  As always, the general public believes these absurd claims, because animal rights groups are masters of media messages, and more importantly, because there isn't enough educational material to combat the lies.

Please check out the carriage association's website and spread the word!  They need help getting the truth out there.  You can see interviews with drivers, photos and videos of the stables the horses live in, and testimony from veterinarians describing the good health and working conditions of these animals.
Save New York City Horse Carriages

I've been to NYC on many occasions, I've seen the carriage horses multiple times, and I've even taken a carriage ride through Central Park.  It was a lovely experience, and one that I would happily partake in again.  My driver was pleasant and knowledgeable, her carriage was comfortable and safe, and her horse was beautifully turned out and in outstanding condition.  I've never seen a carriage horse in NYC in anything but great shape.
Having a snack after our ride in 2009

It saddens me to see the politician giving in to animal rights lies, and also the real estate pressures.  The stables are situated in high-value territory, and connections to the new Mayor want badly to procure the land so they may build.  I don't know whether the "humane" argument or the real estate favors are really behind this move, or if it's honestly both.  Either way, an entire industry in NYC is facing potential extinction due to lies and greed.  Please spread the word that these horses are well treated and highly regulated to ensure their health and well being.

Please visit the Famous Horse Drawn Carriages of New York City's Facebook page to see photographs of their stables.  These horses live in well-bedded box stalls (they are not tied and unable to lie down like the animal rights activists want you to believe!), have free choice hay, automatic waterers, fans, sprinklers in the stables....shall I go on?  They work up to 8 hours a day, have a mandatory five-week vacation outside the city every year (most horses actually spend three to six months at a time out in pasture as they are rotated in/out of the city), have a great healthcare package and dental plan, top quality feed, etc.  Needless to say, they receive the best care possible because the livelihood of their owners/drivers depend on the horse's good health.  It makes absolutely NO sense for a driver to abuse his animal.  From what I've seen first hand, as well as the recent interviews with drivers posted online, they care every bit about their horses as I care about mine.  These animals earn their living and without them, the drivers cannot earn theirs.

I studied the animal rights movement in college and its impact on the horse industry.  I spent several years learning about their tactics, campaigns, and in my 65-page research thesis I examined how they might target and hurt the hunter/jumper industry.  Since then, I have spent years educating fellow horseman about the dangers of the animal rights movement, and advocating for better education from governing bodies of the US horse industry, so that we may be better informed and prepared against any kind of attack in the future.

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights
There is much confusion about these terms.  Animal welfare refers to the health and well being of animals, and groups who are dedicated to improving the lives of animals.  Welfarists believe that humans are responsible for taking proper care of animals.  Local animal shelters and humane organizations out there actively rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming animals are a good example.  Veterinary associations promoting proper animal husbandry practices and veterinary care are another good example.  However, animal rights describes a movement in which the idea exists that animals have the same rights as humans.  Animal rights groups believe that animals are being exploited by humans (whether for food, for entertainment, or for industry), and wish to eliminate that exploitation.

Animal Rights Agendas
Animal rights organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and others share the common and ultimate goal of the elimination of all animal use.  The animal rights movement is NOT about animal welfare, though some groups (HSUS) carefully masquerade as animal welfare groups in order to gain more support.  These groups are great at marketing - they employ highly emotional messages and visuals in their campaigns to appeal to the soft-hearted, ignorant public.  Often, they confuse enough people into supporting them, even though these people may be more supportive of an animal welfare program instead of animal rights.  Animal rights groups often succeed in their marketing and campaigns because the animal welfare sect, and the animal industry that is targeted, do not have the resources or experience to combat the intense marketing campaign of the animal rights groups.  Thus, the public is often presented with only one side of the story, and knowing the American public in particular, we often don't do enough investigation on our own. We take what we are spoon fed and accept it.  This is the danger of the animal rights movement, and why people have to be educated.

There is a favorite quote I like to use to illustrate the above issue.  The quote is from the 1995 movie, The American President.  The conversation is between the President and his aide, who is concerned about the President's falling campaign poll numbers and his complete disinterest in combating the accusations of his lying opponent:
Lewis Rothschild: You have a deeper love of this country than any man I've ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59% of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.
President Andrew Shepherd: Look, if the people want to listen to-...
Lewis Rothschild: They don't have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.

The American public is becoming more and more distanced from animal use and husbandry.  People just don't know what kind of work is involved with keeping a horse, or what is right or wrong for the animal.  As the above quote describes, the average American doesn't accept the animal rights propaganda because their thirsty for that drivel, they accept it because they simply don't know the difference.  That is why animal welfare groups and target animal industries need to speak out and educate the public about the truth.  In this case, the carriage drivers need our help in making sure people know that there are no welfare or humane issues with the horses in NYC.

Today it's carriage horses.  Tomorrow, competitive horses in any discipline could be next in the animal rights campaign crosshairs. 

Outstanding ABC Interview by Diane Williams with NYC Carriage Driver, Stephen Malone

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