Lesson: When Protesting Carriage Horses Try to Remain Calm

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, West Side Spirit.


By Rebecca Cohen

Mostly I push “Yes” on my keyboard all the time to support liberal progressive causes from the comfort of my swivel office-chair. My advocacy for human and animal rights has largely consisted of signing “Yes, I agree.” “Yes, I stand with you!” on such petitions.

In the past two years, there have been 18 accidents involving horse-drawn carriages, many injuries and several deaths. So why is it so hard to end this archaic form of so-called amusement? The carriage industry has a strong union which, along with stubborn politicians including Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg, says the carriage rides are good for the all-important tourism industry. But, of course, it is also a form of animal cruelty.

NYClass, an animal advocacy organization (the acronym stands for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets), has proposed a plan that is tourist-friendly, helps carriage drivers keep their jobs, and uses clean energy. It suggests these horses be humanely retired and replaced with vintage electric cars. Makes sense to me.

In December, I met NYClass and fellow protesters at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue. The Trump-lined street was teeming with tourists interested in carriage rides through the park. While we protested by holding signs and posters of horses down from accidents, I was taunted, mocked and cursed out by an angry horse driver.

“Oh, the poor horseys,” he called out to me. That alone was a bit shocking, but he continued by calling me a crude name for female genitalia. Really? Did he just call me that? Who does that? Feeling helpless and provoked like a 12-year-old being bullied, I retorted by giving him the finger. The fortysomething, amply built man then challenged me with what he thought was a clincher of a question.

“Name me three breeds of horses—go ahead, name me three breeds of horses!” he yelled. I shouted back, “No, I can’t, but can you tell me the names of the last three horses that died while pulling tourists?” Again he replied, “Oh, the poor horseys!”

By then, rip-roaring mad, I called him a different body part and walked away. I am not proud of this. I probably should have been more mature and controlled.

Well, you don’t have to put yourself at risk of being cursed out by a carriage driver, although it was instructive to join the fight. If you would like to help put an end to this abusive practice, check out NYClass’s website, www.ny-class.org, and push “Yes, I support retiring the horse-drawn carriages and replacing them with humane, sustainable electric vintage-replica tour cars proposed in the NYC Council bill, Intro 86A.”

And if you do decide to join them on their next outing, they have a calendar full of events. Hey, you may meet Kathy Najimy or Alec Baldwin or Lea Michele or Miley Cyrus’ sister Noah, or any number of stars who also think this industry is just downright mean.

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