Pop star Pink just tweeted PETA’s latest video out to her 26 million plus followers, a video that seems to show carriage drivers in moments of hate speech, racism and bigotry.
In the video, which appears to have been stitched together from various encounters over the years, a filming passerby asks a coachman by Central Park why his horse is tied to a lamppost. The coachmen then flicks him off and replies with a series of homophobic slurs.
“People who don’t live in New York and don’t come to new york don’t realize how much vitriol and hate is inherent in the carriage trade,” Vice President of Media Communications for PETA Dan Mathews told the Observer. “It loses a lot of its luster, and for people sitting on the fence about it, this behavior has no place on the streets of New York.”
Allie Feldman, Executive Director of NYCLASS, another local animal rights group that has been championing the carriage ban, spoke to Observer about the video. “I’ve even lived that experience myself,” Ms. Feldman said. “There’s been many times when I would be walking by the Hack Line and I would ask them how a horse would be, and they would respond by calling me a fat bitch, or making pig noises at me.”
This is not all that coachmen have gotten away with. There have been reports for decades about the abuse the animals endure.
“If this is how poorly they treat other people, imagine how poorly they treat their animals,” Ms. Feldman said. “Our message to tourists is that there’s so much else you can do in New York City that doesn’t involve the use and abuse of an animal and doesn’t involve patronizing a racist, sexist, homophobic industry.”
NYCLASS and PETA want New Yorkers to call their councilmembers and ask them to vote ‘yes’ on Intro 573, a bill that would safely retire the carriage horses to one of the many sanctuaries that have offered to provide them homes. The vote is expected to happen this summer.
“If these horses were to be retired tomorrow, we’d have homes lined up for every single one of them,” Ms. Feldman said.
Last week NYCLASS also launched a new website called noride.nyc, which focuses on the danger and the safety issue around carriage rides. The group has also released google ads targeting tourists, who account for much of the coachmen’s customer base.
“But I think really, at the end of the day, it has to come down to legislative change,” Ms. Feldman said.
UPDATE: In a statement to the Observer, Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553, which represents workers in the Central Park horse carriage industry, said, “No hateful comments are acceptable in the horse carriage industry, or in our union. But let’s be clear: PETA has put forward videos of three carriage drivers, in an industry with 300 workers, taken over the course of five years. These old videos are a desperate attempt from carriage opponents who know the public does not support them. It is clear at this point that the horses are well cared for, so they are trying to change the subject.”
Correction: An original version of this story reported that horse carriages were banned in London and Paris, which the Observer later discovered was not the case.