It’s happened again. Last week, I argued that carriage horses had no place on the streets of New York City, using a photograph of a fallen horse from a few years ago. Proponents of the carriage horse trade argued such old photographs had to be trotted out because the animals’ safety isn’t really an issue: accidents happen so rarely, and animal rights advocates (or “extremists”) blow them out of proportion. But yesterday, a carriage horse was spooked by a bus, tried to run, and wound up fallen over when its carriage brought it down. The miserable photo, posted by Gothamist, included an even more miserable (albeit unconfirmed) story:
The men (if that’s what we want to call them) proceeded to hold the horse down and save their carriage (yes carriage, not horse) from further damage. One man suggested cutting the carriage and the other said no because it would come out of his pocket (he clearly had one concern, of which the horse was not). To top off the whole event, the men proceed to strap the horse back into harnesses and continue to work even though he was clearly limping and hurt!!!
I can try to anticipate the pro-carriage argument: one ill-timed accident does not an epidemic make, and one fallen horse doesn’t tell the story of all the horses who don’t fall, who work hard and happily year after year. (And, in fairness, we don’t yet know for sure if the story above is true; a spokesperson for the carriage industry told NY1 the carriage’s wheel caught with another’s and caused the collapse.) But for opponents, one fallen horse is one too many: it’s toppled steeds on Central Park South that drive the animal rights crowd to say that horses have no place on the streets of New York City. It’s not a matter of if but when another bus, or taxi, or throng spooks another horse.
It would be refreshing if the pro-carriage side would acknowledge this and draw up alternative plans rather than pretend that it doesn’t happen—to insist the status quo be maintained. Like, instead of printing up “Save the Carriages!” petitions, why doesn’t the Daily News raise funds to build new stables within the boundaries of the park? Or try to muster the political will to get it funded and done? (Instead of, say, $16 million in taxpayer dollars for a new Tavern on the Green?) The tabloid didn’t even report on the fallen horse: instead, it ran an article about how Nicolas Sarkozy rode in a horse-drawn carriage, as though this matters at all to anyone.
If we can’t put them in the park for practical or political reasons, then phase the horses out—get them off the streets by getting them out of the city altogether.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart