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Tradition is No Excuse for Cruelty!

March 21st, 2011 by Barbara Stagno

By the amazing Dan Piraro

Of all the useless arguments I’ve heard to defend the carriage horse industry, none is more maddening than the argument of “tradition.” How can anyone think that honoring a tradition can be more important than basic compassion?

Don’t get me wrong. Traditions are important. They give us a feeling of security and connect us to our heritage. But blind adherence to tradition is a dangerous thing, and there are too many examples of traditions that perpetrated great suffering and oppression. These practices continued in the face of much criticism, shielded only by the argument of “tradition.”

For centuries girls in China endured a foot-binding ritual that literally broke their toes and crippled their bodies, but the practice was so ingrained that it continued. It was said that a woman with bound feet was more civilized, disciplined, and dutiful. This abomination continued for 1,000 years, affecting a billion women, before being banned in the 1900s.

In Europe, for over three centuries, hundreds of boys were castrated, many of them by the Catholic Church, so they could sing soprano as adults.  Efforts to ban this practice took 150 years because of concern by the Church that it would seriously harm attendance if there were no castrati in the choir.

Such examples are not just historical. In 2004, the British government banned the cruel practice of fox-hunting, even with loud opposition that it was an essential icon of British culture and must continue.

One only need look at those poor horses who are forced to pull carriages day-in, day-out, to see the deep despair in their eyes. What kind of existence is it for a horse to spend his days on the clogged streets of NYC pulling a carriage, followed by nights in a dark stall in a warehouse? Where is the chance to frolic, roll in the grass, or nuzzle another fellow horse?

The truth is, while traditions can be quaint, or comforting, or links to bygone era, there are probably many of them that belong in the dustbin of history. And that’s certainly where horse drawn carriages belong.

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  74. March 28, 2011 at 5:13 am, ilene said:

    this is one tradition that should be gone…times change and to carry out some traditions is no longer logical. carriage horses in new york city is a bad idea…there is too much traffic, too many people and NOT ENOUGH proper rest and retirement for these working animals. new york city carriage horses are routinely sent to slaughter by their “caring” owners when they outlive their “usefullness” at a young age. a horse should not be sent to death at ANY age. give these working horses sanctuary and give their “owners” another way to earn a living. how ’bout those antique electric cars?…much better than asking a horse to work on blacktop, in the heat of summer and cold of winter without proper rest and care.

  75. March 25, 2011 at 10:04 am, emily said:

    I agree that something should be done about the poor, desperate lives of carriage horses in tourist locations. However, I think their quality of the life should be improved (ie, more time off, better, more knowledgable care, etc), rather than their jobs completely irradicated. Perhaps a carriage ride in NY City could introduce the wonderful horse to a city kid who has never seen one up close and personal, and cause him to seek a more animal-friendly life?
    Many, many horses besides carriage horses never get to spend free time outside with other horses. Most top dressage and showjumping horses (mainly in Europe) spend their time indoors and only get outside with a rider on their back. I’m not condoning that this is an OK lifestyle to inflict on a horse, but where are we to draw the line? Why is it OK to hate the sight of a rangy, depressed horse in NY city and ignore the millions of horses in Europe who, despite receiving fabulous care and attention, spend their lives couped up inside?
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  76. March 25, 2011 at 4:46 am, Debbie K said:

    I agree with Katrina, no choice is given to these horses. Get walking and put this tradition in the history books with others that were abolished.

  77. March 21, 2011 at 11:07 am, Kl said:

    I sure agree too! But how can we STOP this? This has been going on for years and I am sure there have been efforts to stop this and all other kinds of animal abuse and it still happens. Just talking about it won’t stop it. I would love to stop all animal abuse today. But how can we do this. It just continues and never ends. I am a huge animal lover and I donate money to organizations to stop abuse but I seem to hear more and more about it. I adopted 3 cats and if I lived in the country I would adopt more pets. The only way I can think of stopping animal abuse is to make stronger laws and penalties against it. Maybe we can all write to our legislators to make it law to stop abusing these horses in NY and animal abuse everywhere. Please give me an address to write to.

  78. March 21, 2011 at 10:40 am, Savannah said:

    I agree, the horses shouldn’t have to pull around carriages all day. It might be better if they get a break every half-hour and if they have a couple days off on the week-end. Plus they should be-able to go sleep in their pastures at night. But the way it’s going on now where they don’t have any of that stuff, it should end.

  79. March 21, 2011 at 10:11 am, Linda Salemi said:

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  80. March 21, 2011 at 8:06 am, Katrina Love said:

    If ever there was a city and a park to walk in,
    it’s Manhattan and Central Park. And if you don’t
    want to walk, hire a freaking bicycle. Replace the
    carriages with rickshaws – at least the human
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  81. March 21, 2011 at 7:44 am, Laurence Burris said:

    “Tradition” is a bullshit reason to hurt animals. These poor horses snorting in traffic fumes…idiotic cruelty! Get your fat ass out of the damn carriage and walk.

  82. March 21, 2011 at 7:35 am, Ann said:

    While I agree with banning the daily use of horse drawn buggies in the cities, I feel that on special occasions, (example, parades, festivals,etc.) should be the limit for these poor horses. If anyone should want to rent a carriage for the purpose of celebrating a wedding, it should be done outside of the cities where it is much safer for all.

  83. March 21, 2011 at 7:34 am, Lori Giliberto said:

    Not to mention all the toxins on those clogged streets on NYC. I agree with you wholeheartedly.