June 24, 2014
By Neal Tepel, LaborPress Publisher LaborPress Editorial
New York, NY – Many progressives and unionists were ecstatic about the election of Mayor de Blasio. His calls for universal pre-kindergarten, a massive investment in affordable housing, and combating inequality were music to our ears.
Who would have expected, six months later, that the same mayor would be firmly entrenched on the wrong side of New York’s most-talked-about class war – the call to ban Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages.
In the horse debate, we see a different kind of class war. One where a moneyed, privileged group of animal activists seeks to throw 300 union members out of their jobs. Simply over a philosophical disagreement.
Their opposition to the carriages stems from an opposition to working animals. As one PETA representative said on NY1, horses are “wild animals.” These 'activists' are the same guys that walk around with cans of paint and spray women wearing furs and leather jackets. Should we also eliminate the police department from using horses and dogs that work to protect the public?
Let us not forget who the workers are. They are over 300 men and women, who drive carriages, clean stables, and do other jobs that support the tourist industry which is critical to the economy of our city. Thousands of visitors to the Big Apple look forward to a ride in the park. These drivers have worked with horses all their lives and know no other trade. Without the carriages, there is not another middle-class job in sight.
It’s hard work with long hours for decent pay. It has been made more difficult with animal activists harassing drivers on a daily basis, at the carriage hack line and online.
NYCLASS proposes that carriage drivers should instead drive electric touring cars in the park. It takes a special level of gall and insensitivity to tell a horse-loving carriage driver, who has not done anything wrong, to drive a car all day instead of a carriage. Even if it were a viable alternative.
To be clear, the carriage drivers have not done anything wrong and the industry is a great asset to the city. Thanks to regulations they called for at the City Council, every horse enjoys frequent vet inspections, five weeks vacation on a farm, and protections from working more than 9 hours a day or when it is too hot or too cold. They are regulated by no fewer than five agencies and unannounced inspections from equine veterinarians and horse experts have endorsed the quality and condition of the horse care.
Banning the carriage industry means putting middle-class New Yorkers out of work, simply because a small group is philosophically opposed to working horses. It is not about animal abuse or safety for New Yorkers.