A recent accident involving a horse-drawn carriage in Victoria has reignited a spirited debate over whether it’s ethical to allow horse and buggy rides for tourists in urban areas.
On a chilly Saturday morning in the B.C. capital last month, a horse set for carriage duty suddenly bolted from an Ogden Point parking lot, tossing its 23-year-old driver to the ground. No one was injured in the mishap, but the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) responded with a 10-page letter to Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin arguing that the city should ban carriages. The group complained that they subject horses to harsh weather conditions and the toxic fumes from cars.
The letter noted that several cities have already banned the practice, including Toronto, Las Vegas, London, and Beijing. (Toronto’s ban dates back to 1998, when city council outlawed carriages in the downtown core under pressure from animal rights advocates.) New York City councillor Tony Avella, who is waging his own battle against horse-drawn carriages, agrees. It’s not solely a question of animal welfare, he says, the carriages are also a threat to public safety. “It’s a huge safety risk to have a horse and buggy in midtown traffic with all these cars and trucks.” He adds that he’s running for mayor this year, and if he wins, he’ll outlaw buggies in New York.
Still, many Canadian cities, such as Montreal and Quebec City, still have them, and horse breeders like Rose-Marie Thompson, the owner of Summerwinds Stables in Saanich, B.C., don’t see what the fuss is about. Thompson says the animals used to draw carriages are carefully selected and meticulously pampered. “The horses are well-fed, well cared for—to the extreme,” she says. “They even get massages.”