Saturday, January 23, 2016

Horse Carriage Hearing -- An Embarrassment for Animal Rights and the Mayor


New York City carriage horse. "Sad, miserable and dispirited?"
 
I did not physically attend yesterday's City Council hearing on Intro 573-A, Mayor deBlasio's "Compromise in concept" bill to "reduce and limit" carriage horses in New York City.
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But I watched the entire proceedings on Podcast.
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It was a fiasco.
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It was obvious from the get go, that the administration officials attempting to ram rod the Mayor's bill through the City Council had not done their homework, causing one Councilmember to sarcastically refer to it as a, "shotgun wedding."  Another quoted a New York Times article citing it as "a solution seeking a problem" and still another labeled the measure, "An empty bag with a hole."  
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Considering that the councilmembers peppering the administration officials with pointed and derisive questions were all members of his own democratic party, such does not bode well for this bill getting out of the Transportation Committee, much less voted on anytime soon.
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Among the dozens of questions that officials were unable to answer, were how many horse carriage drivers and pedicab operators would lose their jobs were the measure to pass, the actual costs of the estimated 25 million dollar stable to be built (one councilmember calling it a "blank check."), actual sites under consideration for the Central Park stable (the officials could only name one) and the logic of reducing horses and restricting carriage rides to Central Park long before a stable could actually be built to accommodate them -- if indeed, it would ever be built.  
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Perhaps, most embarrassing for city officials was that while accusing horse carriages of "negatively impacting public safety and quality of life," they could only point to four documented accidents over the past five years causing injury to horses, but not to humans. (Two people were killed by bicycles just last year.) These out of roughly 300,000 carriage rides a year. Of all modes of transportation in the city, horse carriage rides are among the safest for both, animal and human.
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Among the many opponents to the bill, were Park Advocates, Pedicab operators, horse carriage drivers, stable owners and numerous Animal Rights advocates.
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The public comment period in fact, demonstrated a serious rift among Animal Rights proponents, with some groups and individuals opposing the measure because it was "not an outright ban on the carriage horse industry," while others supported the bill as a "step in the right direction."
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But, even these caused skepticism in one of the councilmembers who asked if the measure was passed, "would this be the end (of the issue)?"
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Another councilmember asked a group of five Animal Rights advocates (representing different organizations) to raise their hand if "agreeing with the ASPCA that there was nothing inherently wrong with a horse pulling a carriage" and only two did.  (Not a smart PR or strategic move before a city council hearing as it leaves no room for negotiation.)
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This might explain why most of the councilmembers of the committee left the hearing before most of the comments were even read.
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As an Animal Rights advocate, I was both, mystified by the proceedings as well as embarrassed for my cause.
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Mystified by the lack of preparedness of the officials representing the mayor's goals.
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Embarrassed, not only by the obvious division among Animal Rights proponents, but more so, by their startling lack of professionalism, reasonableness, critical thinking and strategic skills and reliance on emotionalism.   
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Alli Taylor, Executive Director of NYCLASS, expressed as her main reason for opposing horse carriages, "sadness" when seeing the horses in Central Park. (I could say I am "stressed and inconvenienced" when encountering marathons in Central Park, but such is not credible reason for banning or even reducing them. Feelings are subjective and mostly irrelevant at fact-finding, political hearings.)
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Many of the Animal Rights proponents in fact, relied on feelings and interpretations as primary reason for opposing carriage horses, one woman even on the verge of tears when relating how "miserable and dispirited" the horses appeared to her.
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Several others referred to the horse carriages as "enslavement."
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While such declarations made me personally cringe, there were some animal rights people who thankfully came across reasonable and thoughtful, chief among them, Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance for New York City Animals.
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Expressing support for the compromise bill, Ms. Hoffman illuminated on the natural "attractant" that a few grazing carriage horses could provide for the public if allotted some pasture space in the park (presumably next to the newly created stable).  
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I loved this image and have personally fantasized about it.  Who, after all, wouldn't feel sense of peace and tranquility watching a few horses grazing as they would do in the wild or on a farm?  Even the most ardent Animal Rights activist couldn't argue with or feel "sad" seeing that.
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However, considering the opposition to even creating the stable in the park (which doesn't mandate turnout space), it's hard to perceive the park giving up one more inch than it absolutely has to. Space is at premium in Central Park.
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As lovely as the idea expressed by Ms. Hoffman, it is, unfortunately, likely to remain fantasy.
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Other fantasies put forth by Animal Rights activists were those bucolic "sanctuaries" supposedly waiting for displaced carriage horses. Both, NYCLASS and the ASPCA offered to "help carriage drivers find sanctuaries" for horses they would be forced to give up, should the bill pass.
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I chuckled at this.
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What human being would hand an animal over to the very people who have waged "war" against you for years and attempted to destroy your livelihood?  Such is not a basis for fuzzy, warm feelings of trust and cooperation.
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What is lost and never mentioned in the banter about "waiting sanctuaries" is the fact that virtually all horse sanctuaries are full and cannot save all the young, fit and docile horses being trucked to foreign slaughterhouses every day. How would these sanctuaries suddenly have room to take in 145 horses left jobless by the passage of this ill conceived and misguided bill?
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Reality is that the horses -- like all animals -- are legally, owned "property."   
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As such, there is no law that can require any animal owner to "guarantee" lifelong care of an animal -- even pet cats and dogs. A horse is far more expensive to maintain than a cat or dog and are generally kept as animals with specific purpose or "work."
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Remove the purpose for a horse and his/her life is then placed in jeopardy.
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Reality is that the 145 carriage horses "removed" from carriage work are likely to either be euthanized or returned to Amish farms where they will work with few regulations and oversight and later sold at auction. (i.e. slaughter).
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I don't understand "love" for animals that removes them from our world and sets them on precarious course and unknown fate.
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In an ideal world where every horse was guaranteed lifelong, committed home and there was no such thing as a slaughterhouse, I might think differently about the bill.  
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But, even then, I might think (like the NY Times), this was a solution seeking a problem.
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Every carriage horse I have seen appeared relaxed and content to me.
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Plus, I like the presence of all animals in New York City. -- PCA
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15 comments:

SandyLynn said...

Thank you for a wonderful post. I might add that even if some of the displaced carriage horses did, in fact, end up in a rescue facility- they would be displacing horses who actually do need rescuing, ones in imminent danger of slaughter. Even if every single carriage horse went to a rescue mission, all that would be accomplished would be that 145 caring homes would be lost and 145 other horses who might have been saved will be condemned to a horrible death. That's NOT the way to help animals.

PCA said...

Excellent point, Sandy. Thanks for making it. Appreciated.

Charlotte Allmann said...

Well done, Patty, another thoughtful and honest blog post on this topic. Animal rights, as a philosophy, is worthy of consideration and thoughtful discussion, but that wasn't the way to do it. Emotions and feelings are subjective, by nature without reason. But laws require objectivity, facts and specific language, with nothing to do with how people feel about it. The mayor's people were embarrassingly unprepared, and the animal rights groups were even worse.

The whole thing is ludicrous, an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. Everyone with any common sense knows that a stable and green pasture in Central Park, provided by tax payers to private businesses, is, as you said, a fantasy. Not going to happen, especially before deBlasio is voted out of office on his terrible record on homelessness for - ahem - human beings.

You said it all with this: "I don't understand "love" for animals that removes them from our world and sets them on precarious course and unknown fate."

PCA said...

Thank you, Charlotte for your thoughtful comment. Animal rights as philosophy, is tough and it is tremendously complex. We are not just talking one species of animal, but technically, millions with all different needs, purposes and instincts. This is not a cause given to catchy political slogans and "one size fits all" solutions.

Then as you point out correctly, there are all the practical, legal and cultural considerations.

I think we in AR have to ask ourselves, how much do we want to "free" animals if it sometimes to their own peril (as I believe it is in the case of domesticated carriage horses who appear to enjoy and benefit from a working partnership with humans)? Any human endeavor (whether with animals or not) can always be improved for the benefit of all. But, this bill is not about improvement, but rather crippling, not one, but two industries.

Elizabeth said...

You call yourself an animal "rights" advocate. Are you SURE that is what you are?

Animal Welfare or Animal Rights?

Here are some of the differences:
As animal welfare advocates. . .

· We seek to improve the treatment and well-being of animals.
· We support the humane treatment of animals that ensures comfort and freedom from unnecessary pain and suffering.
· We believe we have the right to "own" animals -- they are our property.
· We believe animal owners should provide loving care for the lifetime of their animals.

As animal rights activists. . .

· They seek to end the use and ownership of animals, including the keeping of pets.
· They believe that any use of an animal is exploitation so, not only must we stop using animals for food and clothing, but pet ownership must be outlawed as well.
· They want to obtain legal rights for animals as they believe that animals and humans are equal.
· They use false and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse to raise funds, attract media attention and bring supporters into the movement.
· (The Inhumane Crusade, Daniel T. Oliver – Capital Research Center)
For more information:
www.humanewatch.com
www.naiaonline.org
http://www.cfodconline.org/
www.saova.org

PCA said...

Elizabeth: Anyone is welcome to discuss or even disagree with one of my posts. What they are NOT welcomed to do on my personal blog, is post propaganda links and/or quote from said anti-AR hate sites.

Your so-called "definitions" are pure garbage.

There are for sure, differences between animal welfare and animal rights. But they are not defined in the tripe you posted. If you are incapable of discussing something rationally, respectfully and thoughtfully, then please leave. You do not help your cause by posting inflammatory BS to others personal blogs.

Nicole said...

Great piece. As the owner of an elderly horse I took when the riding stable where he worked closed down (which I did only because no one else stepped up to take him), I know firsthand how expensive keeping a horse is and I admit I get anxious every time the upkeep bill comes due, as I am far from rich. It's so frustrating to hear the NYCLASS crew spin fairy tales of "loving homes for all the horses," but without ever providing any details, like where, and how many years and how many thousands of dollars these "loving homes" are prepared to pay for a pasture ornament. Steve Nislick/NYCLASS will give $1 million to put their man in the Mayor's seat, but won't give anywhere near that for horse rescue right here, right now. Because it's not about horse welfare; it's about spending $1 million to get the mayor to push to get the West Side stables out so that the area where they are can be turned into luxury condos that will sell for many millions.

The possibility of a carriage horse ban makes me sick, because more horses will end up in slaughter auctions, and, on the human side, working class men and women will be out of a job, all so a few very rich people can get even richer. It's so frustrating, and none of this is in the horses' best interests. Their best interest is to stay where they are, with a steady routine, a safe place to live, and surrounded by other horses.

PCA said...

Thanks, Nicole for your thoughtful and informed comment -- all of which I agree with. (Thanks, by the way for taking in an elderly horse. Obviously a lucky horse.)

Judge Judy is known for saying, "If it doesn't make sense, it's usually not true."

What never made "sense" to me is that one man (Nislick) would spend more than a million dollars, form an organization (NYCLASS)and wage relentless campaigns because he felt "sad" when seeing carriage horses -- especially considering all the issues of real and egregious animal abuse and death.

I only wish others would think about these things -- as you obviously have.

Again, thanks for the comment.

Claire B. said...

I have long enjoyed seeing the strong, apparently well-fed and healthy carriage horses, guided by seasoned drivers, placidly going about their familiar routes, around congestion, by noisy cars and racing bycicles, and giving care and wide-berth to distracted wandering tourists and excited children. These horses and their carriage drivers are a wonderful part of NYC which should be easily accessible, visible, and treasured. In line with that, I think an upgrading of the current stable space might be nice. And, yes, it might be nice to set aside a small area of pasture (a la dog park/runs) in Central Park for viewing the horses as they relax and socialize, abutting perhaps an open-sided, inviting roofed shelter to provide shade from the hot sun or inclement weather. It would likely be a plus as photo-op site, adding to NYC tourism.

PCA said...

Thank you, Claire for sharing your thoughts. I agree with everything you said.

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