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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.


It is so ridiculous the way people are allowed to treat animals. These animals have never done anything to hurt us. They are so full of innocence and peace. They don't deserve to to be abused. Stop the animal abuse. Stop the animal slaughter. It brings tears to my eyes when I see how an animal has its eyes full of sadness , pain ...... It is time to take a stand.

does anyone know where they sleep?? i do. in a dirty parking garage chained to the wall by there face. even when it rains they work even when nobody is in the streets they work...listen if we cant stop it we can better the working conditions...punch out for breaks etc.Give the horses some space

I love animals, but I have to disagree. I live in New York and walk by the park near the plaza often. I have never seen any signs of abuse. The handlers love thier horses. The horses are their bread and butter. The riders feed the horses and give them plenty of water. I've seen this with my own eyes. Most of the time they are not pulling the carriage, but standing and waiting for a potential client. I have also heard the argument that the horses while pullling the cart can be dangerous. I disagree there as well. They go so slow, and I have never felt fearful being near or on the carriage. I am more afraid of the taxi cabs that drive like loons. If this is banned these horses would be put to slaughter. So many horses don't have a place to go. Horses have been domesticated to work. They are not being abused. That doesn't mean that cases of abuse don't happen, but by and large the animals are treated well. I think this is a silly campaign and there are other efforts that need your energy.

For Michael Farewell: There is a difference between loving a group (and "animals" is an awfully big group) and respecting the individuals within it. One need not witness abuse to question use. You say that handlers love horses at the same time you say that the horses are useful to them as a source of income. For this very reason, it would be difficult to claim that the care most handlers provide their horses is anything beyond maintenance. Standing and waiting for a potential client isn't something an equid naturally does. It's what businesspeople do. And if you are afraid of taxi cabs it's odd that you wouldn't think horses have a thing to fear; unlike your body, their bodies are out in the streets hour after hour. Finally you note that if this is banned these horses would be put to slaughter. You are making our point. That's exactly where we believe many wind up, regardless of how many people can make a buck off them before they get there. We are asking that people start to think of horses as beings who do not belong in this stream of commerce at all. Could you contemplate the idea that being "domesticated to work" might be reasonably described as a form of abuse of one species by another?

As the owner of the largest fleet of horse drawn carriages in nyc,i must say,these people who obviously never been 1 of our stables,speak of pure lies! These horses are in box stalls,with windows,fans and skylights,automatic waterers,and 24 hr stable staff.Everybody has the right to their own opinion but to lie to try to get more people on your side is thw wrong way.We loved the little protest last week,that go little coverage or attention by the public.Business was extra busy that evening,and we hope they have more demonstrations,as this publicity is priceless!

Anita, The neglect and substandard conditions the horses endure is obvious to many, and the NYC Comptroller's audit and NY Times article served to verify many of the claims animal advocates have been making for years. See: Our rallies and press conference last week received coverage by several major news networks including FoxNews, NY1, CBS, AM-NY, Daily News, a Japanese press organization, NYU's Newspaper, and a documentary filmmaker from Al Gore's cable network. As I'm sure you're aware, for the first time in NYC history, a Council Member (Tony Avella) has announced his decision to propose legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages from New York City. These fantastic developments are understandably making you nervous about your future prospects, Anita; but to quote Vegan Society founder Donald Watson, "one is reminded of the reply given by somebody when slavery was abolished and one of the people against abolition said 'What on earth is going to happen to the families of the people who make the whips, if slavery is abolished?' Well, the obvious answer to that - they are given more profitable and humane work to do!" Edita Birnkrant NYC Campaign Coordinator, Friends of Animals

Edita,no matter how many inspections the stables pass,you will never be satisfied,because you choose to believe what you want to believe,plain & simple.We were very happy with the audit report,as the only problems they found was with the actual carriage stands on the street.We as citizens cannot repave or add water spigots to our carriage stands,though we would certainly love those improvements to our stands.The audit clearly states there were no problems with any of the 5 stables or their horses,which we are extremly proud of.As for Tony Avela,he must be publicity hungry to even purpose legislation on a business he never investigated or visited.In on my past expierience,this industry is a political football,by people in politics who are desperate enough to grab at straws,to get noticed and support anything they think will get them on TV,or in the paper.The ''vigil'',must have been a big disappointment,as it was shown on 1 major network on the 5pm news.We were very impressed as it did draw more carriage rides for a weekday night.As anyone can obviously see,passengers line up for carriages rides more and more,and its not even Holiday time yet.The public has proven to us there is certainly a demand for horse & carriage rides in NYC,by the influx of business.


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