Thursday, January 21, 2016

At What Cost "Victory to Reduce and Remove Carriage Horses" from New York?


Will this horse be allowed to stay or forced to go under new proposed law?
What a difference a day makes.
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Yesterday, Animal Rights groups appeared divided on the "compromise" bill the mayor is touting to "reduce" carriage horses in New York City with most advocates expressing disapproval because the bill didn't go far enough. 
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But, today, most of the larger organizations have jumped on board to support the bill. These include, NYCLASS, ASPCA, HSUS and PETA.
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But, Friends of Animals and Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages still remain opposed because it is not the ban that the mayor promised.
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A reader sent an email today asking why some of the larger organizations have supported a ban on carriage horses (and now the compromise bill) since such doesn't seem to the ultimate welfare of the horses.
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I answered this is mostly for political strategy and deal-making reasons. (i.e. "You rub my back, I'll rub yours.")
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For many years the Animal Rights Movement endured criticism for being "divided" and engaged in nearly constant disagreement, in-fighting and back biting.
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In recent years, some of that has changed with more efforts being directed now to at least appear united and cohesive.
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But, sometimes such "deal making" comes at a cost.
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In this case, one might say, cost to both, animal and humans welfare.
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One might question, for example, the real motives of those we are lining ourselves up with (or "getting into bed with.")
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While the outward claims of NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) has been "concern for the welfare of horses," such seems dubious. For one matter, their name has nothing to do with animals or their "welfare."  For another, their founder, Steve Nislick is known for Real Estate development, not championing the rights or welfare of animals. (As already mentioned, the land current horse stables sit on is highly valuable.) While NYCLASS denies any plan or motive to directly bid on lands eventually opened up when stables are demolished, such doesn't necessarily speak to personal motives and goals of its founder.
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But, this issue (at root) has always been about land grab.  It seems the ruse of "animal abuse" was utilized as an attractant to many otherwise, well meaning animal lovers.
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Some years ago, I asked the founder of a wildlife organization why his group was supporting the efforts of NYCLASS to ban carriage horses in NYC, since the issue had nothing to do with wildlife protection?
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He answered that such was with the hope that NYCLASS would later support important efforts to oppose government sponsored, goose, swan, turkey and deer slaughters in NY and around the country.
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Additionally, it was important for the AR movement to be united and cooperative.
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"A victory for one is a victory for all." said he.
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In other words, a political calculation.
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But, there has never been much evidence of NYCLASS supporting efforts of other Animal Protection groups with the exception of a few non-carriage horse postings here and there on their FB page. To my knowledge, NYCLASS has never directly supported efforts on wildlife conservation or protection, including those of my friend's group.
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More to the point, however, is the belief of, "Victory for one representing victory for all."
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What if the battleground picked for "unity" is one that ultimately goes down in flames?
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Is defeat for one, also defeat for all?
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I believe that the carriage horse industry was chosen as a focus for some animal rights groups, not because of actual and egregious animal abuse, but because it was perceived as "easy" -- especially compared to the truly horrific and entrenched issues like factory farming or animal derived clothing that abuse and slaughter billions of animals a year.
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Carriage horses represent a small, blue collar industry of a few hundred workers that mostly caters to tourists and romantics.  A horse carriage ride is neither "necessity" nor something most people partake in on a daily basis or even think about. There is no multi-billion dollar corporation, CEO or Washington lobbyist for the NYC horse carriage industry. Most of the carriage drivers are working class immigrants, not familiar with or even interested in political maneuvers.
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So yes, it seemed like an easy target:
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Point to the few carriage horse accidents over the years (out of millions of rides). Claim that the horses are "miserable and dispirited." Claim they have to "breathe fumes." Try to condescendingly portray all carriage drivers (and their customers) as uncaring and uneducated Neanderthals intent on animal abuse.
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Then, to sweeten the pie, spend more than a million dollars to destroy one political candidate in order to endorse another who has promised to give you the "victory" you seek -- a ban on carriage horses.
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Finally, harass and intimidate City Council members to the point they will do anything to finally get the issue off their backs.
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Admittedly, the strategy has worked -- to a point.
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I personally believe the City Council will buckle to and pass this "Trojan horse" carriage bill tomorrow for reasons of self-interest. Put simply, they are sick of the issue and just want it to go away.
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But, I can't see this misguided, cruel and inept "law" standing up to legal scrutiny and the courts.
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The carriage industry has retained two lawyers to do exactly that: Sue.
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If and when the issue goes to court, attention will be paid to issues like spending tax dollars to pay back political favors, (25 million dollars "to create a stable in Central Park"), utilizing public park properties for private enterprise and most of all,  hampering private businesses without just cause to the point they can no longer successfully operate (carriage horse and pedicab industries).
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(Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg's efforts to ban large sodas in NYC went down in flames a few years ago when it was brought before the court and declared,"Unconstitutional."   The mayor was accused of "overstepping his authority" and that certainly appears the case with deBlasio.  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sodaban-lawsuit-idUSBRE96T0UT20130730.)
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Put simply, It is neither the "business of the people" nor to their benefit to slowly destroy legitimate enterprises for the sake of paying off political debts. Such law cannot stand up to legal scrutiny in the courts and is likely to be declared unconstitutional.
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The question to then ask in terms of the Animal Protection/Rights movement is, "Does defeat for one, represent defeat for all?"
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It has often been said that in political and social struggles, one needs to "pick one's battles carefully" and to be cautious of who one "gets in bed with."
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One might also want to be familiar with constitutional law. Even a small industry of only a few hundred people can rise up and sue.
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Sometimes the "path of least resistance" is not the wise path to take in the long run.
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That is especially true when considering the more than 150,000 mostly young and fit horses sent to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses every year because their owners cannot afford their upkeep and sanctuaries are filled to the brim.
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No one has yet to answer exactly where the roughly 145 horses who no longer have jobs under this misguided "law" are supposed to go?
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As an Animal Rights advocate, I do not support efforts to remove healthy, well kept animals from our world and send them to uncertain and likely, precarious fates.
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Such is neither to the welfare and benefit of animals or humans.
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Unless taken down by the courts, this so-called, "victory" could be one of claiming success of operation while the actual patient died.
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Or even worse, a victory of battle, while losing the actual war on real and egregious animal abuse. -- PCA
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