Animal Rights as Smokescreen: The Land-Grab Behind the NYC Horse Carriage Ban

Behind the hue and cry so-called animal rights activists are raising about New York City’s horse carriage industry stand definite material, class interests. If the city’s local government decides to ban the horse carriage industry, there will be winners and losers.

The winners will be:

  • The big real estate interests that stand behind the astroturf lobbying group known as NYCLASS that is pushing the ban.
  • Mayor Bill De Blasio who owes the group a big favor for helping to eliminate Christine Quinn in the Democratic mayoral primary and who announced within his first week of becoming mayor that he wanted to get rid of horse carriages.

The losers will be:

  • The unionized carriage drivers who are Teamsters.
  • Unions in general who have rallied to the defense of their Teamster brothers and sisters.
  • The horses themselves.

So the fight over banning the city’s horse carriage industry is in reality a land grab by real estate moguls who want to take the lucrative location of the horse stables from union workers. That is the only way of looking at the fight that explains the following peculiarities:

  • NYCLASS has never done anything to oppose the city’s horse-racing industry where horses are killed in accidents on a regular basis. Twelve horses died in just 22 days at one track in Queens and this track’s rate of horse fatalities is almost 800% higher than the national average! By way of comparison, 7 horses pulling carriages have died over the course of 10 years and there have only been 3 fatal accidents in 30 years.
  • NYCLASS refuses to compromise on its stated goal of totally abolishing horse carriages. If they were truly focused on the welfare of horses, surely they would view reforms such as greater regulation of the industry or mandates for more/better veterinary care positively just as prison abolitionists support prison reform and opponents of the death penalty support strengthening the appeals process for people on death row. Instead, NYCLASS consistently ignores the fact that the industry is well-regulated and that the New York State Veterinary Society has given it a clean bill of health.
  • NYCLASS has no plan to take care of the horses once the carriages are banned. Food and veterinary care for the 200 horses will cost $1.6 million a year, or some $20 million over the course of these horses’ lives, not including the cost of boarding them at a stable. Claiming some charity will take care of these horses provides no guarantee that the charity won’t go bankrupt and that the horses won’t go to the slaughterhouse. But NYCLASS knows that neither the public nor the media won’t be watching what happens to the horses once the ban passes.
  • NYCLASS’s plan to replace the horse carriages with antique cars won’t work. Each car costs something like $150,000, far beyond what the average Teamster horse carriage driver can afford, and that isn’t counting the $6,000 they will have to pay out of pocket for a taxi medallion. 200-300 people will lose their jobs and livelihoods and NYCLASS has no alternate employment for them.

Like it or not, the animal rights crowd are on the wrong side of the struggle between workers and the horses they own on the one hand and the real estate interests on the other who can’t wait to get rid of the stables in midtown Manhattan that sits on land worth over $10 million. Animal rights activists should think twice before becoming somebody else’s useful idiots.

2 responses to “Animal Rights as Smokescreen: The Land-Grab Behind the NYC Horse Carriage Ban

    • Some useful info here to be sure, but where does the $32 million estimate come from? Seems arbitrary. It makes it sound like the carriage drivers are millionaires and if they are, their tax returns would show it. Somehow I doubt the Teamsters are organizing millionaires.


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