More than 200 horses pull carriages and tourists in New York City every day, but the danger and drudgery of this practice could be stopped by bills introduced by a New York state senator and assemblymember, who have brought the horses’ struggle to an exciting new level: the state legislature.
New York State Senator Tony Avella and New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal introduced the first-ever legislation (S.5013/A.7748) in the Spring of 2011, calling for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. These companion bills pending in the 2012 legislative session would amend New York City’s administrative code to prohibit horse-drawn cabs. It would also prevent current carriage horses from being sold off to killer buyers, which current law allows.
Friends of Animals and our determined supporters have worked for years for legislation to ban horse-drawn vehicles in New York City, Philadelphia and Victoria, Canada; and, in coordination with Senator Avella and Assemblymember Rosenthal, we’re arranging a Lobby Day in Albany on May 1 st so that New Yorkers can join us to speak directly with New York lawmakers and garner their signatures for this bill. All those New York residents who would like to attend this important day of legislative action for the horses should contact Edita at the phone number or email below for more information and for organized transportation options. Join us on the group bus!
A Committed Senator
Senator Avella, now a Democrat representing the 11th Senate district, served on the New York City Council until 2009, and supported the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages consistently. The senator worked closely with Friends of Animals to create the landmark ban bill introduced into the city council in 2007.
By taking this initiative to the state level, Senator Avella has shown his deep commitment to making New York City a travel destination with safety and fairness in mind for all.
At the June 2011 press conference announcing the state bills, Senator Avella was quoted by the Daily News:
Banning the operation of horse-drawn carriages within the city of New York is long overdue. It is simply no longer appropriate or safe for a horse carriage to operate in congested and often perilous midtown traffic. Equally as important is that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of these animals. The conditions they live and work under are clearly wrong and should not be tolerated.
“Animals do not have the ability to advocate for themselves, so I believe it becomes our duty to act to protect them and advocate on their behalf,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal, a Democrat representing the Upper West Side and parts of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, who also told us:
In the 2010-2011 session, I introduced the bill A7748 to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. These work horses spend hours each day toiling in the oppressive sun of August or the sub-zero temperatures of February with little rest. It is a hopeless existence, to be sure.
Shortly after the bill was introduced, three serious accidents involving horse-drawn carriages and vehicles occurred in less than three weeks. These accidents comprised a painful reminder Rosenthal stated, that the bustling streets of New York City are no place for horse-drawn carriages. Rosenthal added:
Decades ago, when the city had fewer cars and people, these carriages may have been viewed as magical or even romantic to some. But given the reality of the New York City of 2011, it is clear that there is no way to justify a barbaric and archaic practice that puts the lives of the horses, their drivers, pedestrians and motorists in serous peril every day.
New York City is one of the best in the world to enjoy while walking, thus making the existence of horse buggies even more absurd.
The world takes particular notice to what happens in New York, and the precedent of a ban on horse-drawn carriages here will have a momentous effect on other cities and countries working for the same goal. So no matter where you live, please help us help the horse. Call the Senate and Assembly in support of the bill. Create a buzz in Albany about the effort in New York City in the days leading up to our Lobby Day. Here are sample calls to make:
For Readers who Live in New York State
We urge you to contact your state senators and assemblymembers and ask them to sign on in support as sponsors of Senate Bill S5013, the Bill to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York City, introduced by Senator Tony Avella, and Assembly Bill A7748, the Bill to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in NYC, introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. State the correct bill numbers and the name of each legislator. Reach the State Senate operator at 518-455-2800. Reach the State Assembly operator at 518-455-4100. It’s helpful to communicate detailed reasons why you strongly support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City, and why you are urging your state representative to support the bill.
For Readers Outside of New York State
Your power as a potential tourist to New York matters to politicians, and we ask you to please make four calls: two to the New York Senate committee chair, and two to the New York Assembly committee chair—to both their local district and Albany offices. The bills are currently in the Cities Committee in both the Senate and Assembly. Explain to each lawmaker that as a tourist, you would never use a horse-drawn vehicle, and ask them to help make New York State more progressive, and more beloved, by supporting the bill that would stop this use of its most famous city’s exploited horses and let them go into sanctuary. Be sure to tell each person you speak with where you live. Hearing from people from all over the country and the world will have a huge impact on these decision makers.
- Contact in the Senate: Senator Andrew J. Lanza. District Office, 718-984-4073; Albany Office, 518-455-3215. Be sure to tell Senator Lanza’s office that you support Bill S5013, introduced by Senator Tony Avella.
- Contact in the Assembly: Assemblymember Carl E. Heastie. District Office, 718-654-6539; Albany Office, 418.455.4800. Be sure to tell Assemblymember Heastie that you support Bill A7748, introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.
What Else Can We Do?
Support ethical entertainment that does not rely on animal exploitation. Pedicab rides are a wonderful alternative that already exist in New York City to give tours through Central Park. Please let your family and friends know the reasons to avoid horse-drawn carriage rides. You can request copies of Friends of Animals’ educational horse-drawn carriage flyer to help spread the message.
Also, writing letters and op-eds championing these historic bills is something anyone can do, and it’s a wonderfully effective tool for spreading the word about this effort.
If you can participate directly in the political process, we and the horses need you! Attend the Lobby Day in Albany on May 1st. Other volunteering opportunities in our campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City and beyond should contact Friends of Animals’ New York director Edita Birnkrant at email@example.com, or 212-247-8120. Educational “Why Should New Yorkers Support A Ban of Horse-Drawn Carriages?” pamphlets are available upon request to hand out to the public in New York; information can also be obtained about how to help with our campaigns for the horses in Philadelphia and Victoria, Canada.
This issue’s Cheers and Jeers is devoted to the fur issue. Fur sales have been under assault by animal advocates for decades, but the industry’s multifaceted PR campaign leads many people to believe fur is chic, fashionable, even sustainable. Although celebrities aren’t solely responsible for bringing fur back, they play a role in keeping the industry alive. Whether you love or loathe them, celebrities, and more specifically our culture that remains obsessed with them, influence popular culture in significant ways. People emulate celebrities.
As economically developing countries continue to grow, prosper, and “Westernize,” the fur industry will proliferate. We encourage our readers and members to use every opportunity to talk back to the fur industry — people who make, market and wear fur. Write letters to the editor; place flyers in your local libraries, supermarkets, cafés and other places where people gather (flyers can be ordered from Friends of Animals); speak out. Keep the conversation going. And by all means, please write letters to influential public figures, designers, musicians, etc. who continue to perpetuate the myth that fur is anything but hideous and cruel.
Cheers to Cindy Barshop, former “Real Housewives of New York” star, and her spa-chain Completely Bare for ditching the real fox fur in her new “foxy bikini.” The foxy bikini is thankfully now faux. You can thank Barshop, and ask her to ensure that no animals are used for anything every again by contacting Completely Bare customer service line: 855-366-6060.
Cheers to Melissa Rivers, the daughter of Joan Rivers, television host and producer, for publicly coming out against wearing fur. Melissa co-stars on the reality TV show Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best. Melissa’s mother is another story altogether, and we certainly hope Melissa will help encourage her mother to have a change of heart. You can thank Melissa Rivers through:
c/o The Gersh Agency, Inc.
9465 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Jeers to legendary comedian, entrepreneur and reality TV star Joan Rivers — who, despite her obsession with furry canines, continues to purchase and wear fur. While we may find Joan Rivers incredibly funny and entertaining, her wanton love of fur is anything but. Rivers, who co-hosts “The Fashion Police,” also dotes on other fur-wearers — perpetuating the myth that fur is fashionable. We’re asking Joan to ditch the fur habit; we hope you will, too, through:
c/o William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
9601 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Joan Rivers Worldwide
150 E 58th Street
New York, NY 10155-2402
Jeers to Lady Gaga — whose new-found love of fur is nothing but a bad romance. Several years ago, Gaga was quoted on the gossip blog Perez Hilton as being against it. But now she’s posed in magazines and appeared on red carpets wearing fur and meat dresses — and we’re very disappointed. Gaga champions some important causes and issues; let’s remind Gaga that animal rights matter, too. You can contact Gaga through her publicist at:
c/o Avid Exposure, Llc.
8721 W. Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood , CA 90069
Jeers to Cee Lo Green — a musician, rapper, record producer and actor — who committed a major faux-pas when he performed in Times Square on New Year’s Eve by wearing a full-length fur. Green is a judge and mentor on “ The Voice ” — a wildly popular alternative to “ American Idol ” ; but Green needs to be reminded that fur is only beautiful when it’s on the living animal upon which it belongs. You can contact Green at:
Cee Lo Green
c/o Atlantic Records
1290 Ave. of the Americas
New York, NY 10104
Most residents at Primarily Primates arrive in urgent circumstances: a research lab closes and needs to place animals; a road-side zoo shuts down and all the animals need placement — this second. There’s the too-frequent story about a pet primate who’s reached the age of lashing out at the owner: “Can you take my __________ because she’s biting me?” One emergency after another. That’s what life is like at a refuge.
But Victor’s arrival was different. The day after Halloween 2011, as the morning care staff at Primarily Primates chopped fresh fruits and vegetables for the 400+ residents, a black vulture followed an employee through the front door of the staff house. We wondered whether the bird was one of a hundred wild vultures who live free on the property at Primarily Primates.
We live next door to a hunting ranch. Sometimes deer, sometimes vultures — black and turkey vultures — have simply shown up on our grounds. The vultures perch in trees; they come and go as they please. Vultures are most often non-migratory (though they will sometimes move to a warmer climate during winter), so it’s generally the same group we see. You can hear their raucous hissing as they form rows on tree limbs, stretching their wings each morning. (Vultures, unlike other birds, don’t have a syrinx; so their sounds aren’t tweets and songs, but grunts and hisses.) Their boisterous morning wake-up ritual is part of the daily soundtrack that plays here.
Black and turkey vultures live predominately in the southern United States — but are spotted as far north as New England. If black and turkey vultures enter disputes over food, black vultures are typically the more aggressive ones.
We have experience with rescuing vultures from distant tribes. For 15 years, we looked after two South American king vultures, bright and tropical-looking, like parrots, but with vulture heads. The feathers around their necks were red, orange, blue and yellow, and their wattles — the skin drooping over their beaks — was bright red-orange. These massive birds escaped from a researcher’s aviary during a storm.
But what were we to make of the vulture who came into the care staff house, by an odd combination of walking and hopping? And this vulture acted comfortable around humans. Used to us. He looked at us, straight in the eye. We were half expecting him to burst out, in a voice like Randall’s honey-badger, “Where’s my breakfast, stupid?”
When vultures leave the sanctuary, they go in search of food — which is almost always carrion (road kill). They’ll also go looking through dumpsters or landfills; they like eggs. They’re opportunistic and thrifty — we’re sure they might find the odd scrap or two that a monkey might have accidentally discarded here at the sanctuary. Vultures are just the kind of clever animal to make sure no food is wasted at Primarily Primates.
The first clue we discovered as to the unusual history of our new vulture friend, now known as Victor, is the pinioning of his wings. Someone had cut the outer rear edges of the wings to prevent the re-growth of those feathers, thus preventing Victor from ever being able to fly. This procedure is commonplace in zoos, private bird collections or homes where birds are owned as pets.
A black vulture, Victor is a curious and unusual animal to behold, with a featherless head, black plumage and hooked beak, typically scrappy-looking — although it must be said that Victor is quite beautiful. Free vultures often have to fight for food, and as a result they often have scarred faces and plucked, mussed feathers. But Victor’s face is unscarred.
Victor has taken to life at the sanctuary with ease — and in unexpected ways. One of the most difficult aspects of placing animals here is that they were once probably subject to extreme isolation. It’s a long adjustment for some animals to live among their own species. But Victor took to the free vultures immediately. He spends his days with them — and is still interested in, and social with, the humans who work at Primarily Primates. Victor will always have to walk and hop to get places, but he manages to hop the 15 feet up into the tree to perch alongside other vultures — and he can adeptly hop back down, too — every morning and night.
It’s a mystery how Victor got here. Why he’s so comfortable around humans — and so completely charming — we’ll never really know. We can only guess. We can surmise that a human imprisoned this federally protected bird for the thrill of control, or to study some aspect of him. Whether Victor escaped and hopped his way to Primarily Primates — or was simply dropped off — we’ll never be certain. We’re just grateful Victor found his way here.
Wilderness, be it forests or plains or deserts or lakes or ocean tide pools, is the home of free-living animals. These animals might be large (wolves, dolphins, deer), small (squirrels, carp, blue jays) or tiny (caterpillars, minnows, field mice), but they all depend on wilderness.
Over millennia, we’ve co-evolved with these animals. They’re our neighbors and the Earth is also theirs to share. So I wonder why more groups are not speaking up for better protection of habitat. What is the point of all our advocacy if there is nowhere left for animals to reside?
The needs of domesticated animals are central on the radar of advocates; we’re all familiar with how many cats and dogs need homes. We’re also familiar with the need for homes for animals rescued from roadside zoos and those occasionally released from laboratories. And then there are sanctuaries for farm animals. But another kind of homelessness, overlooked by nearly all animal charities yet affecting vast numbers of animals, involves the usurping of wilderness.
In Victoria, British Columbia, my home town, as in an increasing number of cities across North America, we’re finding unexpected wildlife in the city. Most commonly seen are deer, and they can be found regularly in nearly all neighborhoods now – something nearly unheard of just a decade ago. Following them are the predators: black bears and cougars. The response to their appearance, from the inappropriately titled conservation officers, is ruthless and swift.
It’s unfair to begrudge deer, cougars or bears for wandering this way. It’s been but a few moments, in evolutionary terms, that our cities have existed. We’ve sprouted very quickly, and taken more space than we deserve or need. We’ve expanded our populations much too quickly, and the rest of nature simply cannot keep up. In building our homes, we compromise or destroy theirs. Moreover, we reduce their genetic diversity by cutting off communities’ ability to mingle, so they are now isolated from one another.
Planning green corridors is one important response. Is it fair, in addition, to try to control or manage their populations?
Lee Hall doesn’t think so: “[P]robably the last thing advocates need to do is buttress the view of an overpopulation of free-living animals or offer new ways of thinning the herd. Respect for other animals’ autonomy fits with the answer that most closely mirrors the way of the natural ecology, and the other animals’ capacity to adapt to it.” Further: “We need a social movement that inspires us to respect non-human animals, to want them to remain capable of living and moving freely in the habitats to which they’ve naturally adapted, rather than be alienated from those spaces.”
This is, I believe, where we need to steer ourselves. I can envision cities that, while not encouraging of visits from others animals, know how to respond, and can cohabitate. We’d welcome many more green spaces that would allow their communities to stay connected. At least 10% of a town or region should be set aside as wilderness, barring animal farming, commercial use, off-road vehicles and thrill sports like helicopter skiing and personal watercraft racing. These spaces require protection from habitat manipulation projects, predator control, mining, logging, trapping, hunting and fishing. (Unfortunately, most towns have already eliminated acres of land that could be designated wilderness, although reclaiming commercial lands and converting them to wildlands has been successful in some areas.)
In turn, we would also have the privilege of being able to visit their spaces, to marvel at the wonders of nature, as we learn to live peacefully in their world. As David Attenborough sang, adapting Louis Armstrong’s classic in the “Frozen Planet” series, what a wonderful world that would be.
White-tailed deer are probably the best-known herbivores in the United States. Yet their survival in our human-dominated world is increasingly difficult. Human self-interest and attendant practices have positioned deer as Enemy Number One — though an honest look at the misperception of overabundance would dispel the deeply rooted animosity toward these creatures.
But perhaps the greatest wrong is our indifference toward them. Sometimes, we’re just not thinking of animals when we plan our structures.
That might mean we need to change in small but significant ways. Each and every one of us is in a position of responsibility.
For instance, a recent letter to the editor of The Chestnut Hill Local of Philadelphia described the deadly effects of a spiked fence. The letter described the impaling of several fawns and does, and a death in November 2011 when one deer could not jump a spiked iron fence bordering the writer’s property. The neighboring fence-owners gallantly tried to save as many deer as possible, but the whole event was tragic. Unsafe fencing has caused similar harm to the deer at our local arboretum and other homeowners’ properties.
Iron or wooden spiked fences on properties lead to injured, maimed or dead deer when they can’t jump over the fencing. Local residents might consider whether they need a fence on their property. If you absolutely do, look for one that is high enough so that deer will not try to jump over it at all. Another solution is to buy a fence that does not have spikes or wires on top, or places where deer can wedge themselves between posts. Other solutions include attaching a rubber garden hose over the top of the spikes or putting a hole in small, rubber balls that can be attached to the top of the spikes.
Fencing companies have options available that are safer for animals. Try asking them for help with this issue. In this process perhaps you can also educate them about safe fences for deer and other animals.
Especially in the winter, deer need to find any food available and that means trying different areas: another trail or field or yard. Deer can get disoriented and confused by huge structures that block their movements, and are often unable to manage jumping over gates or barriers safely. We who live near parks or wooded areas have a civic and ethical responsibility to protect the precious wildlife that frequents our properties.
Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia targets deer deliberately too. An annual winter killing of deer began in the Wissahickon Park in 1999, under the auspices of the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department. The killing of the deer and the need for deer to have food has made winters especially hard on deer—where we live, and perhaps where you live too.
Respected ecologists, biologists and veterinarians, among others, have sought to cultivate a deeper social understanding of deer. Learning about deer would undoubtedly raise the threshold of public acceptance for what they are, and garner an acceptance of their presence in our lives. Their lives, like ours, have inherent value that demands respect.
Deer live in extended family groups. Their societies are well ordered. Each deer plays an important role in an intricate family dynamic and social structure which should be protected and preserved according to nature’s design.
And it is time someone said, ”Deer are unoffending animals in need of a break.”
Mary Ann Baron and Bridget Irons co-founded Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer in the Spring of 2010.