Animal rights activists targeted Liam Neeson’s Manhatten condo building yesterday for a protest against his support of the city’s carriage horse industry. In March, the actor wrote an editorial published in The New York Times supporting the continuation of the use of horse-drawn carriages in the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio supports replacing the horses with vintage style electric cars. In his editorial, the actor opined that the horses are happier and healthier when working, and that the horse carriage industry is well-regulated in order to protect the welfare of the animals.
Neeson touted the safety record of the carriage horses, stating that only four horse deaths have occurred over the last 30 years, in over six million carriage rides. He contrasted that with the large number of human traffic fatalities occurring in the city over the same period. NYCLASS, a group in support of ending the horse carriage industry in New York, states that 20 horse accidents have occurred over the last few years.
Based upon the dearth of significant accident statistics, the real reason for the opposition to the horse-drawn carriages revolves more around the nature of the work required by the horses and the conditions of their upkeep. The horses trudge through the streets for nine hours at a time breathing car exhaust and then stay in tiny stalls on the west side of the city each evening. Jon Stewart has described the condition of the horses in the city as “sad-eyed horse carriage district.” The activists targeting Liam Neeson’s home for their protest want what they consider inhumane treatment of the horses to stop.
The New York Daily News reports that 64 percent of city residents support keeping the horses. The newspaper is leading an effort to keep the horse carriages. The paper is attempting to show support for the more than century old industry through a petition drive. The Central Park Conservancy, a non-profit corporation in charge of managing Central Park, has also voiced its support for leaving the horse carriages intact. Doug Blonsky, the president of the organization, opines that introducing electric cars to replace the horses would place the 40 million annual visitors to the park more at risk of accident. The mayor’s spokesman counters that the electric cars replacing the horses would travel at a slow rate of speed, given the use of the vehicles for touring purposes in the same fashion as the horses.
As far as an actual City Council vote on de Blasio’s proposal, not enough council members have weighed in with their support for the measure to pass. The council members who are against the carriage ban may vote for a bill allowing a pilot program in which the electric cars work along with the horses. The mayor will likely need to soften his stance and go with the pilot in order to pass anything. An outright ban on horse carriages appears unlikely now.
The activists targeting Liam Neeson’s home for a protest have more opposition for disbanding the horse carriage industry to contend with than merely the actor. Although the mayor supports the ban, a majority of New York residents want to keep the horses. By all accounts, a majority of the City Council sides with the citizens of the city and the horse-drawn carriages are safe for now.
By William Costolo