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Group Looks to Outlaw Horse Carriages

July 30, 2007 | Animal Rights / Horses

By: JESSE BUCHANAN, Special to the Herald

WETHERSFIELD - To most, a carriage ride is romantic, quaint and relaxing.

To others, it's cruel and exploitative.

The town's plan to provide horse-drawn carriage rides in Old Wethersfield is being opposed by the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, based in Darien.

"This practice attracts tourists but at the expense of living beings," said Joan Lownds, Friends of Animals staff writer. "It's just not necessary."

A carriage ride may not be necessary, but in a town that prides itself on its historical and aesthetic value, it makes perfect sense.

The purpose is "to enhance the visitor experience, and the residents' experience as well," said Peter Gillespie, director of planning and economic development. The rides will be guided, directing architecture and history buffs to sites of interest.

Edita Birnkrant is Friends of Animals' campaign coordinator for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York City, and is working with the Wethersfield campaign.

While she has concerns about the safety of the horse, drivers and passengers, her underlying disagreement is more philosophical - and extreme. Birnkrant says her primary concern is the "disrespect" to horses carriage rides communicate.

"It's the idea that we have the right to force any animal to do what we want. They're not here to pull carriages for us," she said.

Respect for Birnkrant is to "not intervene" in the lives of animals. "They exist for their own reasons, we don't have to know why," Birnkrant said.

She sees animal rights as the logical continuation of the civil rights and women's rights movements.

"We've evolved past human slavery," Birnkrant said.

The Friends of Animals group holds that all use of animals by people is wrong. They advocate veganism and offer a vegan cookbook called "Dining With Friends."

Town manager Bonnie Therrien signed a $25,000 grant from the state July 19 for funding the rides, and advertisements for bids on the contract will go out Aug. 20. The winning bidder will be announced at the Town Council meeting in September.

Therrien has received nearly a dozen letters in opposition to the proposed carriage rides on the grounds of animal rights, and Lownds called councilman Martin Walsh to ask how the horses will be handled. Walsh doesn't know, as a contractor has not been named yet, but said residents are free to voice their concerns at council meetings where the issue could arise.

"It seems to me horses have pulled carriages for a long time, but I'll certainly listen to their concerns," Walsh said.

Gillespie is trying to accommodate those concerns, requiring applicants for the contract to provide information about the care of the horses.

"One of the criteria is the welfare of the animals," he said.

The town intends to go through with the project, providing they find an operator for the rides.

"These operations occur all over the country," Gillespie said.


Exploiting conscious living beings for whatever purpose an owner deems appropriate is abuse in and of itself. In their natural state, horses run free. They mate when and with whom they please. They have families. They socialize in their group. They own themselves! That horses have long been our property; that some are treated well; that Wethersfield is not NYC, doesn't change the fact that our ownership denies their right to experience their lives on their own terms. Instead of controlling horses, we should be controlling our selfish interest in beings who rightfully belong to their own world, not ours.

I know people who have carriages and wangons. In Upstate New York we have a historic site with a vehicle free 5 mile road. There are two companies which use draft animals to haul gear an d canoes to the site. These people love their animals. Living in Saratoga, horses are a way of life. I have worked with them at a college stable. If this town has no traffic problems I see no problem. The NYC incidents mentioned are the minority, and the people involved should be punished. Yet, I find most horse owners love their animals, as do most handlers. Thank you for the forum.

First of all I would definitely like my oppposition to the use of horses for the purpose of pulling carriages known. Unfortunately, I know first hand the treatment these horses receive. My best friend purchased one of these horses at a slaughter auction for $75.00. He was several hundred pounds underweight, his hooves were in such poor condition that they were twice the normal lenghth, having actually grown around the shoes. It was very painful for him to walk, much less pull a carriage, but that was actually what he had to do until the day before he was auctioned. If it hadn't been for my friend's compassion for this horse,who had obviously never received any before, he would have been bought by the "meatman" and sent to slaughter. People need to put themselves in the horse's situation and see what it would be like to to be deprived of adequate food and water, forced to pull several hundred pounds all day in 100 degree weather, in the hot sun, inhaling exhaust fumes, and see how they would like it. Doesn't the quality of these horses' lives count for anything?

Yes, the quality of the horses lives certainly does count. Again, there is no excuse for mistreatment of a horse. Unless you are living in the wilderness with no single piece of modern living (including a computer), you have NO reason to talk about the use of horses or any other animal. Without horses, mules, oxen, and other animals, we are not where we are technologically at this point in time. I believe that God provided animals for us to use respectfully and appropriately, and no matter what any of you say, you can't force your beliefs upon other people. Go live in the woods among the animals. [Blog editors' note: We can only be thankful that identical objections and criticisms did not always prevail when human groups who have been used throughout history demanded respect.]

I agree that this should be outlawed. I was in NYC just a month ago and it was extremely hot and I walked past Central Park I couldn't believe that these horses were still working. We are far more advanced than we were in the 1800's...and there is no sound reason why we should be using horses in this selfish way. In order to make our world a better place we must start practicing love, kindness and compassion for all living things.

The Town of Wethersfield should not bring back the horse and buggy days. Horses and traffic do not mix. It is a recipe for disaster, as the horses natural defense action to bolt and run when frightened. For instance,have you noticed the loud mufflers on cars and motorcycles or the too frequent fire crackers in the summertime? The Town should check into its insurance policies because Towns can and will be sued when a horse bolts causing accidents. Are they aware that horses and carriages are being banned in cities here and in other countries. Putting any Town at risk for such lawsuits is not a sound decision. The people in Wethersfield and the horses deserve better.

The state and people of Connecticut are being taken for a ride – and it is not on a pedicab. $25,000 – to fund a private carriage horse company?! Is Old Wethersfield so desperate for the tourist dollar that they have to stoop this low? Doesn’t the State have anything worthy to spend it on? Bonnie Therrien, the town manager of Old Wethersfield, either received bad information when she decided to add horse carriage tours to the town – or someone knows someone who wants to make some money exploiting horses for profit – i.e. providing carriage rides. Horses are living breathing beings who require a lot of care. They are expensive to maintain. Has the town set up regulations to govern the operation of the tours and the well being of the horses while they work and where they are stabled? Is there a program to retire them when they are spent – or will they go to the auctions and possibly to slaughter while a new younger horses gets enslaved for the job. Has the town set up a fund to pay out claims when there are accidents – when the first horse spooks and runs down a child? It happened recently in St. Petersburg, Russia – the mayor’s daughter was killed in a carriage accident – and earlier this year – a young girl was trampled by horses in Phoenix – she died, too. Or will it just be willy nilly? Everyone to himself with the carriage owners making the rules – and the town (the citizens) subject to big law suits. According to the newspaper account, the town legislators have not given it a thought. This should be a red light to anyone who cares about these horses that they do not know what they are doing. And who elected these people?! Many, many people are opposed to carriage rides – not only in New York City, which is one of the worst offenders – but throughout the country. I know – I hear from them. We have a petition directed to Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council and tourists cannot line up fast enough to sign it. They represent every state in the United States and 43 countries at last count. We have thousand upon thousands of signatures asking for a ban of the industry. Why would a town like Old Wethersfield want to be added to the list of places not to visit? I know I will not go there and will tell everyone I know and all of our members -- throughout the country and world – to do the same.

...STOP this exploitation of a magnificent and loyal animal for the sake of money and "quaintness" This planet's creatures deserve better treatment including us. DO NOT put money into such an unnecessay venture. There must be a more productive way to use the funds - Thank you.

I like the vegan abolitionist message from FOA, which the author labels "extreme." As animal rights advocates, it is better to speak clearly about where we stand than attempt to hide our values to look "mainstream."

I am sickened by the way our society allows us to treat animals! Absolutely rediculious! It doesn't matter where we go, Boston, New York, and a lot of other countries, there are horse carriage rides. I have seen horses just druling blood from the bit, I have seen open and infected wounds on them around their whole body, and frankly, it makes me sick to my stomache! I LOVE animals so the first thing I want to do is pet them, but I don't a lot of the time because it makes me WAY to sad to look into their eyes!


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