Animal rights advocates are gaining momentum in the fight against the city's tourism industry as the call for a ban on carriage horses makes headway.
While the use of carriage horses has long been a controversial subject garnering the attention from both advocates and celebrities alike, recent incidents where horses have collapsed and died are sparking the attention of New Yorkers. Videos capturing the collapses have also spread quickly through the internet adding to the criticism.
The backlash on one of the city's most popular tourist attractions is not sitting well with the industry, which reportedly brings in $15 million annually.
Carriage driver Conor McHugh told The Times that despite doubts surrounding the industry's survival, "[drivers] will keep fighting" to continue. Drivers like McHugh explain that the struggle is impeding on his way of life to make ends meet.
The controversy is complicated and warrants serious attention, as advocates on both ends have received threats of violence from their respective opponents.
Last year, the City Council made steps towards protecting carriage horses by mandating all horses be provided mandatory vacation, blankets during the winter months, and larger stalls.
But many believe such measures are not enough and demand a complete ban. After one horse collapsed earlier this week, the ASPCA released the following statement:
We at the ASPCA express our sadness and concern at this tragic incident. The life of a carriage horse on New York City streets is extremely difficult and life threatening, and the ASPCA has long believed that carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today's urban setting.
Mayor Bloomberg has repeatedly responded in defense of carriage drivers:
Carriage horses have traditionally been a part of New York City. The tourists love them, and we’ve used from time immemorial animals to pull things. They are well treated, and we’ll continue to make sure that they are well treated..
Meanwhile, cities like London, Paris, and Toronto have all banned the use.