The horse-drawn carriages in Central Park have been targeted for some time now by animal rights activists, who have long wanted to ban the tourist-driven business because they believe that the horses suffer from living and working in conditions that are inherently inhumane. While carriage drivers and owners have countered these claims by saying that New York City carriage horses are among the most well-treated work horses and operate under the most stringent guidelines in the country, it seems like the days of certain stretches of Central Park South smelling like horse shit might be coming to an end. Both mayoral candidates have pledged to ban the practice of horse-drawn carriages, with one candidate, Bill de Blasio (who, let’s face it, is probably gonna win) vowing, “First day I’m mayor, I will ban them.” But so, what will happen to the horses once they can’t pull carriages anymore? Are they all going to go live in a pasture somewhere on a farm upstate? Or is that upstate farm just a euphemism for horsie heaven?
Sadly, it just might be the latter. The Daily News reports today that while the exact fate of the soon-to-be unemployed carriage horses remains unknown, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be slaughtered. Slaughtered! It turns out that the United States is actually in the midst of an unwanted horse crisis (who knew?) and that we “already send 90,000 to 100,000 unwanted horses to slaughter in Canada and Mexico each year.” And so adding another 200 unwanted, older horses to those numbers doesn’t really bode well for the fate of said horses. The News broke down the cost of taking care of these horses and found “it costs at least $200 a month to care for one retired horse…so the tab for sending 200 horses to live out their days in leafy luxury would start at $480,000 a year.” And while animal rescue organizations who have been advocating for an end to the carriage trade, like NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets), promise that they will find a home for these horses, the News clearly remains skeptical.
However, despite the uncertain fate of the horses, de Blasio remains committed to banning the carriage trade. As well he should, because he accepted a good deal of campaign money from NYCLASS, which also spent almost three-quarters of a million dollars running ads against Christine Quinn. Beyond the almost-jobless horses though, is the fate of the drivers and owners of the carriages. Are they all going to be unemployed as soon as de Blasio takes office too? Very probably. De Blasio wants to replace the carriages with antique cars, which he offers as an employment solution for the carriage drivers, but it’s not exactly an equivalent job, and it’s hard to say that this will prove to be the perfect solution. At this point, it’s impossible to do anything but speculate about the fate of the horses, or their drivers. And it’s possible that these “celebrity” horses will all find homes and that the drivers will all adapt to guiding tourists around in antique cars instead. But it’s more than likely that at least one side of this issue will wind up feeling like they stepped in a big, steaming pile of horse manure.
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