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Call for ban on horse and carriages in Central park Photo by: Google Images

Call for ban on horse and carriages in NYC continues as horse collapses

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Call for ban on horse and carriages in Central park Photo by: Google Images

Animal rights activists are continuing their calls to ban the horse and carriage industry in New York City, after an incident on December 4th when a carriage horse slipped and fell near Central Park.

The repeated pressure comes after a 15-year-old draft horse called Charlie died after collapsing on the street with a stomach ulcer in October.

Cornelius Byrne, of Byrne Stable on West 37th Street, told the New York Times this week that the once well regarded industry is now facing unprecedented criticism and pressure from activists, as well as mayoral candidates and even celebrities.

It's an ever intensifying drumbeat that may eventually spell the end for the longstanding tourist attraction, many fear. 

Carriage owners claim that their livelihoods are being threatened by exaggerated claims and they insist activists are harassing them. However, they also admit that they have carried out their own covert campaign to infiltrate activist groups, secretly recording their strategy sessions. Both sides also claim they have been subjected to threats of violence by the other side.

In fact, tensions have risen so high over the seemingly unresolvable standoff that, when a carriage driver was left in in a coma after an accident last year, the hospital he was recovering in was not disclosed, for fear of protestors gathering outside.

But perhaps the greatest threat facing the industry is a financial one; real estate developers reportedly covet the stables in the Hells Kitchen district where the horses have long been kept.

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'People in our business probably think that we probably won’t survive forever and are asking how long will we last,' Conor McHugh, a carriage driver and the manager of Clinton Park Stables, told the New York Times. 'But we will keep fighting,' McHugh vowed.

The city’s licensed carriage horse industry, which includes 68 carriages, 216 horses and 282 drivers, brings in an estimated $15 million annually, the New York Times claimed.

Driver's earnings range from $40,000 to $100,000 annually, the Times reported.

But activists point to the seven reported incidents involving carriage horses this year, one of which included a collision with a taxi. Carriage horses work under cruel conditions with nine-hour shifts, in busy four and five lane Manhattan traffic, in almost all weathers, with no access to pasture.

'Horses frighten very easily,' Edita Birnkrant, New York director of advocacy group Friends of Animals, told the Times. 'The noises of New York City, the chaos, it is all just an inherently dangerous environment, and they don’t belong here.'

As both activists and carriage horse owners both concede now, controversy seems to surround almost every aspect of the industry. When a carriage horse named Charlie died in October, the A.S.P.C.A. chief equine veterinarian, Doctor Pamela Corey, was quoted as saying that it 'was not a healthy horse and was likely suffering from pain.'

However, Doctor Corey later retracted her statement, claiming the society had pressured her to distort her findings to turn public opinion against the carriages. 'I was under a lot of pressure during the writing of that press release,' she said.

Animal rights groups in the city vow that if the carriage industry is ended they will find safe pastures for the 216 horses. But critics claim that horse sanctuaries around the country are full, and that the current economy makes it unlikely they will accept new horses in any case.

'If we banned the carriage horse industry tomorrow, they would go straight to slaughter,' Doctor Nena Winand, an upstate New York veterinarian who is a member of the American Society of Equine Practitioners, told the Times. 'There is no big field out there, there is no one to pay the bills,' she added.

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Read More:

Irish horse and carriage man dies in New York subway accident

Anti Horse Carriage Fundraiser Canceled

Killarney National Park horse and carriages now all have dung diapers
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