The (Non-Cruelty) Case Against Carriages

The argument that horse carriages are cruel to the horses is not flying with our Wilmington City Council. Fortunately, there are many other arguments to be made. I made some of these arguments at the City Council meeting on March 20, 2018. Video available here.

EG city council 2

For a bit of background, this issue came on the radar when, late last year, a new operator asked for permits to bring additional horse-drawn carriages to Wilmington. For decades, Wilmington has had a single carriage operator, so the whole issue of carriages was pretty much ignored. The existing operator has functioned entirely without regulations. There’s never been restrictions on temperatures, on how long the horses can work without a break, on anything. There’s never been any oversight. The entire operation was essentially “grandfathered” in as part of the operations of the city. Since no accidents have been reported, there was never an incident to draw attention to the issue.

Now the proposal to add a new operator has changed all that. The City realizes it is behind the times in terms of regulating this industry, and now it suddenly wants to get “up to par” (their words) with neighboring cities like Charleston and Savannah. Of course, to be truly forward-thinking, Wilmington could recognize this as the perfect time to get the carriage industry out of the city altogether. With only one operator, it wouldn’t be hard to begin a planned, gradual phase-out. Instead, city leaders are looking to double down and permit more operators.

To be truly forward-thinking, Wilmington could recognize this as the perfect time to get the carriage industry out of the city altogether.

If we’re going to argue against this ill-advised plan, we’ll need to offer reasons beyond cruelty. In fact, cruelty is just a distraction at this point. To be effective, we need to be strategic. Budget and traffic congestion are issues our leaders understand. Why should Wilmington use tax payer dollars to make changes to downtown (such as removing parking meters) to benefit one single industry? One city councilor I spoke to admitted that didn’t make much sense.

As much as many of us want to see horse-drawn carriages eliminated completely, now is not the time to argue for that. Right now we have just one carriage company. Compared to many other cities that allow horse carriages, that’s a good thing. Our focus should be on preventing the city from adding new carriage companies. Nothing else. Allowing more companies and more carriages will simply make this antiquated industry more entrenched than it already is, which will make them that much harder to phase out.

Our focus should be on preventing the city from adding new carriage companies.

Let’s narrow our focus. Let’s speak the city councilor’s language. Let’s show that the carriages don’t make sense budget-wise, business-wise, or traffic-wise. Now is not the time to add more carriages to Wilmington’s streets.

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Listen to the Children

One doesn’t have to be an adult to understand how wrong it is to use animals. Listen to Scarlett Veber speak to the city council.

Scarlett screenshot

“All beings should have the right to live a life free from unnecessary harm.”

Unfortunately, we are learning that city leaders are not persuaded by cruelty arguments. Which means that if we are to prevent more horses from pulling more carriages on more city streets, we will need to focus on the issues that city leaders are responsive to: budget and traffic congestion.

Two More Speak Out Against Carriage Rides

Autumn speaking to city council

Autumn Butler

At the March 6 meeting of Wilmington’s City Council, both Autumn Butler and Craig Kittner publicly added their voices to the opposition of the horse carriage trade.

Autumn referenced the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves on city streets, a sound that was for her, and many others, a charming reminder of days gone by. But looking more deeply into the reality of what walking on pavement does to the horses, Autumn changed her mind about what the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages represent.

horse hooves 2 horses

It is a sound from the past, which has been revealed for what it is—a cruel practice.

As Autumn explained, when it comes to historic charm, Wilmington is in no short supply. Let’s hope that the city leaders respond to this compelling argument and come to recognize that there is no reason to continue this archaic mode of transportation. See a video of Autumn’s full remarks here.

Craig speaking to city council

Craig Kittner

Craig shared a story about being knocked down by a horse as a child, underscoring the fact that his thinking about horses then came from TV shows and movies, which portrayed them as loyal servants for people instead of what they really are: large animals with their own minds and a strong startle reflex.

He also reiterated how fortunate Wilmington has been so far, in terms of avoiding serious injuries to humans and horses. Other cities, he noted, have not been so lucky, and have had incidents where people have been hurt and carriages horses have been put down due to the extent of injuries suffered.

These animals are not designed to be on a hard surface all day.

Craig’s comments can be heard in their entirety here.

Thank you to both Autumn and Craig for speaking out! Wilmington today is at a crossroads. We can either entrench ourselves more deeply into the past by increasing the number of horse-drawn carriages on our streets, as has been proposed. Or we can look wisely and humanely to the future and phase out these relics. Let us encourage our leaders to choose the latter.

Please help by joining our Resist Horse-Drawn Carriages in Wilmington group on Facebook.

Voice Your Opposition

So far, Wilmington’s Mayor and City Council have heard from only two people who oppose bringing more horse-drawn carriages to downtown. The other side, those who support additional horse-drawn carriage operators, have been the dominant voice in this discussion. The Police Department has not opposed it. The City Attorney has no objection. The Downtown Parking Advisory Committee has even suggested a possible route for the new horse carriage operator to use.

Those of us who resist horse carriage expansion must speak up and make our objections heard. The City Council will decide on this issue soon! Let’s give them good reasons to not increase the number of horse-drawn vehicles. Or at least make them delay their decision until they can be better educated on this topic.

Reva speaking HDC issue

This practice is ancient, and it should already be history. It’s the 21st century. We have already fully motorized Wilmington’s cobblestone streets. Horse-drawn carriages do not belong on them.

Please sign up to speak for the horses and for the safety of passengers and pedestrians, as Reva Kelly did at the last City Council meeting.

If you live in the Wilmington area and can help, please leave your contact information in the Comment area below. Also join our Facebook group.

Another Speaker To Address City Council

Reva Kelly, the new leader of Wilmington Vegan, will speak to the Mayor and City Council tonight about why horse-drawn carriages do not belong in downtown Wilmington. Each City Council meeting features a Public Information portion, which is time sets aside for members of the public to bring their concerns before the city’s leadership.

speak truth to power

City Council meetings are aired live live on GTV8 (Spectrum Cable channel 8) and simulcast on the GTV8 web page. The Public Information portion occurs toward the beginning of each City Council meeting, so tune in at approximately 6:40 p.m. to watch it live!

Everyone who is opposed to the cruel, dangerous, and out-dated practice of horses pulling carriages through our city streets is encouraged to speak at City Council meetings! You do not have to speak alone, members of Resist will be there to support you, and you only need to offer a sentence or two. Please leave a comment if you are interested!

Horses at the pond-Proud Horse Sanctuary

Horses at the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, Lincolnton, Georgia

Why This Issue, Why Now

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

photomania-horse carriage in trafficI 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.

photomania-horse carriage accident-horse on car

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.

still from EG at city council

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.