Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages: should they stay or should they go?

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York’s Central Park, which would entail replacing the carriages with electric cars, or “E-carriages,” has sparked debate, with advocates on both sides fighting fervently to further their cause. Supporters of the ban express concerns about animal welfare, while opponents argue that the horses are well cared for and maintain that dismantling the industry is unnecessary.

What people are saying:

Earlier this month, actor and New York City resident Liam Neeson wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in support of the carriages:

“Horses and their caretakers work together to earn a decent livelihood in New York, as they have for hundreds of years. New York’s horse-carriage trade is a humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs. Harry W. Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, has visited the stables and ‘found no evidence whatsoever of inhumane conditions, neglect or cruelty in any aspect.'”

This issue has been featured as the cover story in The New Yorker, with artwork depicting a carriage filled with horses being pulled by the driver. Artist Bruce McCall says:

“I’m on the side of the defenseless animals, but the other point about horses for me is that they clog traffic. I drive a lot in New York, and getting behind one of those carriages is a roadblock. They commandeer the road; they’re turning onto Seventh Avenue or Eighth Avenue to go to or from the stables, and all traffic has to stop for them. They always take precedence, and that seems weird. A nineteenth-century traffic jam in this day and age seems silly.”

Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) supports the ban:

“It’s an animal rights issue for me. I think that in this day and age, and given other options, we don’t need to continue the practice.”

Meanwhile, Rory Lancman (D-Queens) does not:

“The horses get better health care and more vacation days than most New Yorkers, 300 drivers get to support their families with good middle-class jobs, and tourists have yet another reason to visit and spend money in the city.”

Major players:

Supporters of the ban include animal rights group NYCLASS, Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Opponents include Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park, Horse and Carriage Association of New York City, and the Teamsters union, which represents carriage drivers.

Latest developments:

Last Thursday, animal rights activists protested following an incident near the Plaza Hotel, where, according to an Oklahoma tourist, a horse named Spartacus was startled by a bus, fell on the sidewalk, and was pinned down by his carriage.


Yesterday, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that the NYPD must release records regarding horse carriage incidents, which were requested under the Freedom of Information Act by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.




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