NYT on Why We Shouldn’t Own Horses
(The NYT inadvertently presents a great argument for not allowing people to own horses.)
Earlier in the week, the New York Times ran a story about how badly the carriage horse are treated, by their owners. If that’s not a good argument to prevent people from owning horses that they will force to lug tourists around for a buck, I don’t know what would be . . .
This morning, an Opinion called "Once Around the Park" sounds like it was written by a politician. It’s as if the author had a team of people brainstorming how to present a message that pleases everyone, yet doesn’t really do anything.
The problem, make no mistake, is that the horse-drawn carriages exist in Manhattan in 2007. It’s ludicrous to expect a 19th century mode of transportation wouldn’t cause problems when plopped into the middle of one of the busiest cities on the planet.
- Rather than seriously considering the issue, the Opinion begins with "Animal rights activists have long warned that the horses that haul hansom cabs around Central Park had a bad deal." It’s animal welfare activists that have been doing that. Animal rights activists might be as well, but the bad deal part of the argument is secondary to: we shouldn’t be using them at all. Then again, the NYT has been getting this wrong for quite some time.
- The carriage owners are neglecting their horses and "the city needs to do a better job policing the business." Let me ask you something: If you cannot trust the owners of animals to treat them properly, particularly when there’s money involved, and you must create policing systems, don’t you think perhaps the horses shouldn’t be owned to begin with? Economically speaking, the policing costs money, and if there were no carriages, the city wouldn’t have to spend the extra money. It seems to me that getting rid of the carriages is a win-win for the horses and the city, at this point.
- But wait. "Some will latch onto the comptroller’s findings as a reason to do away with the carriages altogether. Considering how popular they are with tourists and romantics, that seems drastic." Drastic? That’s an interesting choice of words. Getting rid of an archaic and wholly unnecessary use of animals that has resulted in their neglect, abuse and death is drastic? And what’s this piffle about romantics? I want to meet the people who–once they’ve thought about it for 60 seconds–still think it’s romantic. Herein lies one of the problems: people aren’t thinking enough about what they’re doing, what they’re eating, and to whom they’re giving their money. (This is the topic of my pamphlet, by the way.) But in my experience, when educated in a kind, diplomatic way, they begin to see what they do through a different lens. And their behavior begins to change. I promise you, the "tourists and romantics" are suffering from a profound state of blissful ignorance, and do not intend to harm horses. They’re just not thinking through what they’re doing.
- "What’s needed is tighter regulation to ensure the horses get regular checkups, have clean stables and are treated humanely." That’s an insult. People like Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages have been trying to get at least that accomplished for several hundred years. And the horses are still thirsty, standing in their own waste, exhausted and forced to negotiate through crazy traffic. The genius idea of the editorial board of the NYT is not new. The Times even admits, "The health commissioner agreed to organize an oversight board called for some 25 years ago." I’ll hold my breath. If I were a horse, I’d say I’ve run out of goodwill. Humans simply haven’t done right by horses, despite the protests of people who keep reminding us of what we are doing to them. Why can’t we just give then a break and let them be?
- But no. The Times thinks opening a stable in Central Park "deserves exploration."
In conclusion, the way the Times is going to solve the problem is to: have tighter regulations (which has never worked before and enforcement is nonexistent) and maybe relocate the horses. This way, the owners get to continue to make money off of them, and the city gets to continue to make money off of them, and people like me will continue to boycott the city–or at least the park–and continue to be embarrassed that the leadership of New York City refuses to step into the 21st century.