(CELEBRITY NEWS/CARRIAGE HORSES) New York’s horse-drawn carriage ban struggles to survive. The cruel tradition trots on due in part to a barrage of media coverage sparked by actor Liam Neeson. It seems people were taken with the star’s support of the horse-drawn carriage industry. Neeson is a very persuasive celebrity and made some valid points, but ultimately the only fact that should matter is: are the horses suffering?

Animal activists and New York’s newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio say yes. These carriage horses are overworked and exposed to dangerous traffic where they can be injured and develop life-threatening health issues, including respiratory ailments from inhaling exhaust fumes. De Blasio, whose candidacy was supported by anti-carriage activists, promised to ban NYC’s horse-drawn carriages in his first week as mayor. Now in his fourth month, he says the ban will still happen, but not until the end of the year.

In the meantime, innocent horses continue to suffer. Read below for more on why New York’s horse-drawn carriage ban has stalled and let us know your thoughts. Is this delay acceptable, or is it time to put horse-drawn carriages out to pasture? — Global Animal

A ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC is being stalled. Animal activists want to put an end to what they consider a cruel and inhumane industry, while proponents believe it's a
A ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC is being delayed. Animal activists want to put an end to what they consider a cruel and inhumane industry that debilitates and threatens the health of horses. Photo credit: OneGreenPlanet.org

Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire

Mayor Bill de Blasio is pulling back the reins on his plans to quickly get rid of New York City’s horse-drawn carriage industry, stung by a recent outpouring of support for the colorful coaches that have clip-clopped their way through Central Park for more than 150 years.

A campaign pledge to take on the horses during his first week as mayor was eclipsed by other issues. And as he nears his fourth month in office, he has encountered enough resistance from the usually compliant City Council to slow his plans again, now saying an industry he calls cruel and inhumane will be gone by year’s end.

What changed?

liam neeson, horse carriage, new york, new york city, de blasio, animal cruelty, animal abuse
Liam Nesson with Arnie the horse and stable manager Conor McHugh at the Clinton Park Stables, where the actor showed his support for the horse carriage industry. Photo credit: NY DailyNews

For one, a media blitz led by actor Liam Neeson has portrayed the horse-drawn carriage industry as an iconic, romantic part of New York that provides about 400 jobs, many to Irish immigrants. In a series of editorials and TV interviews, he has said the operators treat their 200 working horses like their own children.

“I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one,” Neeson wrote in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. “It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working.”

The next blow came when a series of city unions – who usually are de Blasio’s staunchest allies – broke with the mayor, urging him to reconsider his decision in order to save not only the industry’s hundreds of jobs but a profitable source of tourism.

A recent poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers were in favor of keeping the horses at least in Central Park and were lukewarm on de Blasio’s plan to put the horse drivers to work instead giving rides in old-timey electric cars.

Last week, the city’s newspapers piled on. A story in the Times on the unveiling of the $150,000 prototype electric car described it as “the industrial spawn of a rickshaw and Thomas the Tank Engine,” while an editorial bluntly urged de Blasio to “let the horses and carriages alone.”

New York’s Daily News launched a front-page campaign called “Save our Horses” that filled its pages with pro-carriage stories and an online petition that has recorded more than 11,000 signatures.

And The New Yorker devoted its cover this week to a cartoon depicting a carriage driver pulling the horse, giving the local tempest a national stage. (Like so many ambiguous New Yorker cartoons, it wasn’t clear if it was taking sides on the issue, though the artist later said he opposes the carriages.)

A carriage horse named Chris was spooked near Columbus Circle in Manhattan September 2013 and was pinned under his overturned carriage./Photo credit: constant contact.com
September 2013 a carriage horse named Chris was spooked near Columbus Circle in Manhattan and pinned under his overturned carriage. Photo credit: ConstantContact.com

For now, de Blasio and the animal rights activists who donated a combined $1.3 million to his mayoral campaign and the campaigns of anti-carriage city council candidates are standing firm in the belief that the nation’s most bustling city is no place for horses. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals launched an anti-horse carriage campaign with celebrities of its own, including Alec Baldwin, Pink and Lea Michele.

The group also organized a protest last week outside Neeson’s Manhattan apartment building.

Still, de Blasio has grown increasingly irritated by the number of questions he’s faced about horses while trying to push other parts of his agenda.

“I’ve said it many times over the last year so let me try one more time: I believe it’s inhumane,” he said last week. “Horses working on the streets of New York City … it’s not right. We should change it.”

More Associated Press: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_NYC_CARRIAGE_HORSES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT