Animal rights activists continued their ongoing battle against NYC’s horse carriage industry on Thursday, citing one horse’s abused condition as the city’s failure to provide adequate protection.
Dozens of fuming protesters took their grievances to the West 38th Street stable on Aug. 19 after images of Michelle, one of the equine carriage-pullers, surfaced in which the mare appeared seemingly emaciated with a wound on her hindquarters. Organized by NYCLASS and PETA, the groups showcased the photograph as evidence that the antiquated carriage industry must be prohibited.
“We are holding crime scene tape because this is the scene of a crime. Animal abuse is a crime. It’s not even being investigated, and every member of City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio is aiding and abetting this animal abuse of Michelle and so many other horses that don’t have names,” said Edita Birnkrant, executive director of NYCLASS.
The hotly-debated industry has been treading ground for years now; de Blasio previously pledged to address the carriage industry prior to being elected mayor.
Although a ban on horse carriages was never implemented under a de Blasio administration, the talk of halting what many animal lovers feel to be an act of unbridled cruelty is only gaining traction as more incidents of poor health are reported.
“Let this horse retire in a sanctuary because we have seen too many sick and injured horses like Michelle disappear. So, we are asking the industry to let Michelle go to a sanctuary instead of to slaughter,” Ashley Byrne from PETA said.
A staunch critic of Mayor de Blasio, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa joined the protest, also condemning the industry.
“We need to put an end to this once and for all. There will be no more horse drawn carriages. No more abuse of animals and we should all get behind NYCLASS for piloting this effort and other volunteers in the animal rescue community who have led the way,” Sliwa said.
However, despite the Guardian Angel’s presence, NYCLASS took some of the wind from beneath his wings by making it clear to amNewYork Metro that the organization does not endorse his candidacy or his agenda.
As the group chanted for immediate action to be taken to protect the horse in question, Christinia Hansen, a New York City carriage driver and spokesperson for the carriage industry, dismissed the accusations, and charged that the protest was an attempt for NYCLASS to prey upon the sympathies of animal lovers.
“This is NYCLASS once again abusing the emotions of animal lovers. There was a complaint over the weekend about Michelle, which if people have complaints, they should tell the health department, but very often people don’t know that NYCLASS has exaggerated it into [the horse having] open wounds and was emaciated, none of which is true. As has been shown in the investigation,” Hansen said.
According to Hansen, after complaints were made, the New York Health Department dispatched a veterinarian to investigate Michelle’s condition. Hansen also made claims that NYCLASS adjusted the coloring and saturation of the photograph depicting Michelle’s wounds.
“I have photographs of the horse that were taken the day after [the complaints] and yesterday that show that the horse was a four on the Henneke body scale, which one is emaciated. If Michelle was emaciated she should have scored a one or two on that body conditions score and a 9 is obese. Four or six is ideal, she is on the leaner side, but she is not emaciated. She is well taken care of, and this is just NYCLASS’ attempt to re-politicize this issue,” Hansen told amNewYork Metro.
While debates rage over whether Michelle is “lean” or “emaciated,” one thing remains clear: New Yorkers will continue to combat archaic traditions that they feel place animals or humans in harm’s way.