There are few things that make me more sad than horse drawn carriages.
Unlike so many of the other cruelties that animals suffer on a daily basis in this country, this particular cruelty happens out in the open. Romanticized by Hollywood and those exploiting tourists, this is an industry that needs to be shut down. For good.
There are many reasons to ban horse drawn carriages. They are a danger to people – in cars, on bicycles, and on foot, as horses spook easily. Accidents have happened in nearly every city that uses horse drawn carriages. However, what stops my heart are the unspeakable realities that these beautiful animals face on a daily basis:
1. Horses work nose to tailpipe, and subsequently often contract respiratory illnesses.
2. Horses are especially sensitive to loud noises and unexpected sounds. City streets are scary places for them to work.
3. In New York City, the daily life of a carriage horse is so harsh that its working life is only four years, compared to a police department horse whose average working life is about 14 years.
4. Horses work in extremely hot and extremely cold weather. In New York City, they work nine hours a day, seven days a week.
5. Walking on pavement is difficult for horses, and lameness often results.
6. Many horses come into the industry with pre-existing injuries after working on Amish farms or at racetracks. Then they are forced to pull carriages weighing up to 800 pounds.
7. In New York City, the horses’ stables are in buildings, usually on upper floors, and the horses are never given the chance to be in a natural environment.
8. Most retired carriage horses will be sent to slaughterhouses, used for dog food or food for animals in zoos. Horsemeat, a delicacy in some countries, is often shipped overseas.
Many cities, including Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, London, Paris, and Beijing, have banned horse drawn carriages. I’m ashamed to say that my hometown of Chicago still uses them. It’s heartbreaking, and terribly wrong.
For more information on the horse drawn carriage industry, check out the documentary Blinders.
Rebecca Grazulis is a Chicagoan, a vegetarian (yes, you can be both), a wanna-be yogi and a former high school English teacher in a period of career exploration. For more information, you can e-mail her at or visit her website.