with Horse and Hound

Win or Lose, Some Good Has Emerged

norman.karen.farnleySometimes good things eventually emerge from bad moments. Most people around the country don’t really dwell on animal welfare. Representatives of the small, vocal, and well-financed animal rights movement make their strident claims, and the media spreads their gospel. Those who live with animals are not as well organized or as well financed, and their voices—generally—aren’t as well heard. So it has been in New York City, where some good things—honest truths about animals—have finally emerged after a year of bad moments.

Under the guise of animal welfare, hungry real estate developers are seeking to put the carriage horses and their drivers out of business. They see money to be made in developing the horse stabling premises right there in the heart of the city. To that end they contributed large donations to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year. It’s been a year of bad moments for truth about animals.

While the battle isn’t yet over, some amazingly beautiful and honest prose has been published in the responsible media setting the record straight on false claims of animal abuse that were initially so persuasive to a misinformed population. And that’s a good thing, because it so seldom happens.

On Monday this week, a New York Times editorial led with: “Here is something the New York City Council can do to end 2014 on a high note. It can vote down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to abolish carriage horses.”

The Times labeled Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise made last year as “foolish,” and suggested that his selective animal rights pose might have more to do with real estate development than with animal welfare. That was a good thing for truth in animal welfare, because it comes from such a highly respected source.

Also on Monday, the carriage trade and the Teamsters Union held a rally on the steps of New York City Hall, and made public to the media a statement written by the respected journalist/author Jonathan Katz. If the media around the country reproduces just a fraction of what Katz had to say, it will be a huge win for truth about animals, definitely another good thing.

I urge you to read it. It’s beautiful and persuasive. Here are some extracts:

“Beyond the politics of New York City, the long assault on the carriage trade and the ban being proposed by the mayor has mesmerized and horrified much of the animal world beyond. There is a lot at stake here for animals and the people who love them, in New York City and elsewhere.

“Horses have lived and worked and helped build every one of the great cities of the world, from Rome to New York. Why, after thousands of years of this glorious partnership between animals and people, it is suddenly cruel and abusive for them to remain among us?

“We need a wiser understanding of animals than this. We need to find a better way of treating the people who own and live and work with them….

“It is clear by now—many veterinarians, behaviorists, trainers, equine advocates and rescue groups, writers, reporters and city residents, police and health department inspectors have testified to it—that the carriage horses are not being abused or mistreated….

“The carriage horses are not abused. To the contrary, famed horse trainer Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for the movie “Horse Whisperer” has said that the carriage horses are the fortunate horses: they have work, are well supervised and cared for, are healthy and content.

“The worst thing for horses, says Brannaman, is to sit around with nothing to do but drop manure. The carriage horses are lucky. Like people and border collies, they need something to do….

“No reputable equine expert believes it is cruel for working horses to pull light carriages on asphalt and flat ground through Central Park. Draft horses were bred to work, like border collies and police horses and bomb-sniffing dogs in the train stations, and therapy dogs and search-and-rescue dogs.

“The horses are real animals who come from the real world of animals. They are not depressed in the park, or lonely; they do not make career choices and pine for the mythical wild where they have never lived and would not last  long.

“They need to work, it is central to their health and well-being….

“The carriage horses are loved all over the world, they symbolize the magic of New York, the beauty of Central Park, the romance and magic that animals can bring to our lives.

“Central Park was created in part for the carriage horses, they are as natural and organic to the park as beautiful trees and walkways….

“The cruelty and dishonesty of the long campaign against the carriage trade suggests that the horses need to be represented by people who understand them and their real lives and needs. People who know something about animals, and who will treat the horses and the people who own and live with them with dignity and respect.

“Nobody like that seems to be a part of the process to banish the horses from New York.

“I believe—and so do many others—that there is no greater right for animals than the right to remain and survive in our world. For the love of animals, and for their true rights, and for the rights of people, the ban against the carriage trade needs to fail.”

This week the mayor put his proposal to ban the carriage horses before the City Council. The decision is in their hands, but at least some responsible and authoritative journalism about animals has been published.

Posted December 9, 2014