Last fall, the City Council was asked to consider a request to grant permits for additional horse-drawn carriages in downtown Wilmington. It seems another vendor was interested in bringing hansom-style carriages to the city, which already has a horse-drawn trolley business that has been operating for over 30 years.
When I heard these news stories (see this and this), I was appalled. Having lived in the Port City for just over a year, I had found so much to love about Wilmington and its historic downtown. So much, except for those horse trolleys. Every time I saw it go by, the horses lumbering along the pavement, right in with the traffic, it made me sick inside. Once I learned the trolley’s route, I actually started avoiding certain streets in order not to have to witness the sight. Yes, I feel ashamed to admit it, but that’s what I did.
However, when I heard about the plan to bring more horses and more carriages to my adopted home, something inside of me snapped. My immediate reaction was, Not on my watch, you don’t.
Every time I see a horse-drawn carriage with its nose in the tailpipe of a car, and all the pollution and the traffic and the noise, it just hurts my heart. — Pink
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to do something. Since it was near the end of the year and people were busy with holiday preparations, I decided to wait until the new year before taking action. I did put a link to the news story on the awesome Wilmington Vegan Facebook group, and based on the responses to my post, I knew there were others out there who also did not believe horses should be used this way. What a relief to learn that I wasn’t alone!
As I began to do research on horse-drawn carriages, I learned many things. Firstly, they are dangerous. In city after city I read—and saw photos of—grisly accidents that injured both horses and humans. Secondly, they are widespread. Though New York is famous for its plethora of carriage rides, these businesses exist almost everywhere. And while that’s discouraging, what’s heartening is that opposition to horse-drawn carriages is just as widespread. All over this country, there are people who find these carriage rides just as cruel, as unnecessary, as outdated, and as unsafe as I do.
Earlier this month, my new friend Sabel Fantini and I met over soy lattes at Caffe Luna to talk about preventing new carriage rides from coming to Wilmington in the short term, and, in the longterm, phasing out the existing rides. Since this issue had originally been brought before the City Council, we agreed that the city leaders needed to be addressed directly. And that meant speaking to them at City Council meetings.
On Tuesday, February 6, Sabel and I attended our first City Council meeting, and I spoke to the mayor and councilors during the “Public Information” portion of meeting. You can hear my comments in full on YouTube.
Now we need more people to speak up on this issue! There’s nothing like directly facing your elected representatives and telling them how you feel. You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t need to have facts and figures at your disposal. You just need to speak from your heart, respectfully, and explain why you feel horse-drawn carriages do not belong in your city. (Or in any city). And you don’t have to speak for the full 5 minutes that are allotted. Since the rule is 5 minutes per speaker or per issue, we could have 5 different people speak for a minute each!
The important thing is to get our bodies and our voices in front of the City Council. Meetings occur twice each month, on Tuesday evenings at 6:30, with upcoming meetings on February 20, March 6, and March 20. A Public Speaking Request Form must be submitted to the City Clerk no later than 12 noon on the Monday before the meeting. The form is available on the City Council webpage.
Please contact me if you’d like to speak, so I can attend with you and support you the way Sabel supported me. We are stronger and more effective when we are together.