Thank you to Jordan Reichert of The Raging Kucing for taking the time to interview our Canadian correspondent, Dave Shishkoff, about the carriage horse industry in Victoria. Original interview can be found here.
Q&A by Jordan Reichert of The Raging Kucing with Friends of Animals’ Canadian Correspondent Dave Shishkoff about the horse-drawn carriages in Victoria, B.C.
TRK: Hi Dave! While I know it is not the busiest time for the horse-drawn carriages, they work all year round and so do you it seems to raise awareness of this issue. How long have you been at it now and what motivated you to tackle this issue?
DS: Hi Jordan, thanks for the interview! We’ve been working on this campaign since July 2006, when I started with Friends of Animals. Our New York City office is also focused on the carriages there, and so it was only natural to work on it here as one of our many vegan, animal rights and wildlife campaigns. And you’re right – the carriage companies work the horses all-year round. Neither rain nor snow deters them from making the horses stand all day on Menzies Street, trying to make a buck.
TRK: For those readers who aren’t aware, what sorts of activities do you do to oppose the horse-drawn carriages in Victoria?
DS: We hold demonstrations fairly regularly, including a protest of the free trolley rides that were downtown in December. Our activities consist of giving out literature and educating people. We’re not there to yell at people, but get them thinking about this and other animal issues, and reconsider our relationships with animals.
Our newest campaign is a postcard program – we’re giving out free postcards, directed at the Mayor and City Hall, asking they ban the carriages – you can order them online here
TRK: Do you have any new plans for this year’s campaign?
DS: It’s less visible, but I’ll be meeting with more councillors, making sure they’re aware of what’s going on, and encourage them to support our campaign. This is an election year, and I’m planning to make this an election issue, as it was in New York this fall. So that’ll be at the forefront, as well as getting out as many postcards as we can.
TRK: I understand you have collected a lot of signatures over the years from residents and visitors who support banning the carriages, what do you think is the biggest issue in preventing the city from banning them?
DS: While a handful of tourism jobs and the ‘heritage’ or ‘tradition’ are commonly cited, I think it’s mainly just a bit of work for City Council. The more time I spend on this, the more I’m convinced there’s going to be a serious incident, like the tragic story of a passenger killed in Vienna.
In the last couple years, both carriage drivers and passengers have been taken away in ambulances, not to mention what happens to the horses themselves. One gruesome incident involved a wagon, where one horse spooked, the second tripped, and was literally dragged along Dallas Road. It’s despicable, and we shouldn’t be putting these animals through this for a stupid tourism gimmick.
Literally the evening before our December protest of the free trolley rides, a passenger was kicked in the head by a carriage horse and taken away in an ambulance, after a horse was spooked. More details are in this MetroNews article
TRK: We have seen cities all over North America ban the carriages. Do you know what the motivating factors were in those cities?
DS: A lot of the time it’s animal cruelty. The new Mayor of NYC said it verbatim. There may be other traffic issues, but it nearly always comes down to the fact horses don’t belong in the city, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
TRK: I understand that horses, vehicles, and people have been injured because of the carriages in the past? What does this tell you about the safety of having these carriages around?
DS: It tells me they shouldn’t be combined! Horses are flight animals, and easily spooked. Anyone who tells you it’s fine for them to be working in the city is clearly not considering their best interests. I can imagine a much better life for these animals, and that’s what I’m working to achieve.
TRK: People often argue that the horses used in the carriages are happy doing this work? In fact, with conversations I’ve had with staff of the carriage companies they said that it is a great life for a horse and that they love the work.What do you have to say to these kinds of statements?
DS: This talking point has been used by nearly every slave owner through the ages to justify their exploitative practices, and it’s no different here. The only reason they’re considered ‘work’ animals is because we’ve given them that label. They’re not here to ‘work’ for us, any more than a tiger is here to jump through flaming hoops, or a bear to dance for us. Horses, like all animals, are here for their own reasons, and we ought to respect that.
If the carriage companies are saying the horses are ‘happy’ to get into a trailer for an hour-long drive to the city to stand around or tow tourists along the same roads, maybe that says something about where the horses are living? On a more serious point, the companies profit from using horses, and it’s doubtful they’re going to tell any other story when asked. When would they ever say ‘horses don’t like doing work’? (Well, some might once they quit working for the industry.)
TRK: Further to the last question, a lot of people say that it is just tradition to have the horses pulling carriages and that society would not be the way it was today if we hadn’t used them to pull things on streets, farms, etc. What is your response to these kinds of statements?
DS: Society wouldn’t be where we are without human slavery – is that an argument in favor of bringing it back? Certainly not!! These specious statements barely deserve acknowledgement. No draft horse has ever died because they weren’t tied to a carriage. Have they died because they *were* in traffic pulling carriages? Certainly.
TRK: Are you aware of what happens to the horses when they are retired from their years of service? It seems old horses are often disposed of to meat processing plants these days in other industries that use them, are you aware of any such practices here?
DS: I wouldn’t use the term ‘retire’ – they were never gainfully employed. Carriage companies here tell us they’ll care for the horses after they’re done being used on the streets, a common remark in the industry. In NYC, we found this not to be the case when a former carriage horse was found at a slaughter plant, where we intervened; you can read about it here:
What happens to these horses when they’re no longer on the street? I’d be interested in seeing a report from the last 10yrs, outlining all the horses they’ve ‘finished’ with, where they ended up, and where they are today – note that horses can live upwards of 30 years, so that’s quite an investment in a ‘non-working’ animal.
It should be noted that there are now 6 horse-slaughter facilities in Canada, one just opening at the BC/Alberta border this year. Horse-flesh is popular in other countries, and just like with cats and dogs, there is a horse over-population issue, due to breeding. Industries like the carriages also increase demand for horses, and thus horse breeders. It’s all part of an terrible cycle, and can be shut down in part by ending the carriage trade in Victoria.
TRK: If you could tell the people and council of Victoria one thing that should convince them of why the carriages should be banned, what would it be?
DS: Putting horses and people in danger daily for a tourism shtick is abhorrent. Let’s put the ‘civil’ back in our civilization, and stop using and abusing animals this way. It’s 2014, and no one needs a carriage ride, there are other ways for visitors to see the city, and we could implement a similar electric carriage system NYC is looking at. Let’s put the industry to rest, and ensure the remaining horses live out their lives peacefully, free of traffic and its dangers.
TRK: Thanks Dave for the interview and keep up the great work!Remember to tell your friends and family to not support the carriages and encourage visiting relatives, etc. to leave cruelty off their list of things to do while in Victoria.
DS: Thank you, Jordan, well-said! I’d encourage readers to join our Carriage-Free Victoria Page on Facebook to stay up-to-date on news and events. And if people want to learn more, all our literature and files are available here. Please take a moment to write City Council, and let them know you support our efforts to ban the carriages, and I’d urge readers to become members of Friends of Animals member, and help support our campaigns! Visit our main site at www.FriendsofAnimals.org – thanks!!
Thanks again to Jordan Reichert for this interview. Original version can be found here.