After spending millions of dollars during a 4-year quixotic campaign to criminalize the New York City carriage horse industry, an animal rights organization reportedly is waving the white flag.
Or are they?
Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu, the driving forces behind New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), told the New York Daily News editorial board that it no longer seeks the prohibition of the heavily regulated industry.
“We achieved nothing, except created some bad will, which we have to address, so obviously our strategy had to change,” says Neu, adding that the group had been too antagonistic.
To alter their course, the organization has hired new advisers and is plotting that aforementioned new strategy. Yet, a leopard simply cannot change its spots.
“Do we think the industry is an inherently cruel industry? Yes,” says Nislick, a high-powered real estate developer. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not willing to compromise.”
What are these compromises? Let’s take a look.
• End carriage rides through Times Square and limit fares to Central Park.
• Increase the city mandated stall size from 60 square feet.
• Guarantee that retired carriage horses are never slaughtered.
• Replace all Standardbreds they say are too small to pull carriages with large drafts.
• Change how horseshoes are applied.
As is customary with NYCLASS, specifics are sparse and rationale is suspect. Yet, arguments regarding stall size and traffic-related health problems have been swatted aside by well-respected equine veterinarians Stephen O’Grady and Harry Werner as nothing more than platitudes.
It’s impossible to guess the issue that Nislick and Neu have with the application of the carriage horses’ shoes. Do they prefer glue-on shoes? Do they have a problem with the traction? The more important question is: Does Nislick and Neu have considerable knowledge of equine hoof care? Both O’Grady and Werner do, and they raved about the quality that the carriage horses enjoy after inspecting them on separate occasions.
“I was especially impressed with the quality of the farriery on these horses,” says Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. “I did not see a single horse that I could look at and say this horse is overdue, or this horse needs therapeutic farriery.”
The diligence that the carriage horse owners have displayed toward hoof care makes perfect sense to O’Grady.
“If these horses are not happy, if they don’t work well or if there’s a problem, they don’t go out,” says the Virginia farrier and member of the International Equine Veterinarian Hall Of Fame. “Therefore, the drivers don’t make their money. One of the biggest things that keep these horses sound is what you do with their footcare. The farriery on the horses was very good.”
The complaint about the hoof care did not sit well with Christina Hansen, a horse carriage owner and driver.
“This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard since the time that the animal rights activists said that the carriage horses shouldn’t be around construction equipment,” she recalls, “because the horses might slip and impale themselves on the [plastic] safety cones.”
Equally shortsighted is the notion that Standardbred horses are too small to pull a carriage. One man — who says he is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds — debunked the notion by not only pulling a carriage, but he did so with eight passengers.
This kinder, gentler NYCLASS is nothing more than a public relations stunt — and it’s not lost on the industry.
“NYCLASS wasn’t getting anywhere calling for a ‘ban’ on the industry, so they’ve changed the phrasing of what they seek, but most can still see the wolf in a sheep’s clothing,” according to a statement from the New York City carriage horse industry. “Perhaps had they started with this PR tactic someone would’ve lent them an ear, but at this stage of the game, their ultimate goals have become clear to everyone.
“They’re asking for ‘compromises,’ which would only cause attempts at compromising the industry. They’re looking for ways to end the industry with ‘a death by a thousand cuts.’ If they were given an inch, they would only move the goal posts, as they’ve done so often in the past. By nickel and diming the regulations of the industry, they would ultimately put them out of business.”
Meanwhile, for an organization that claims to be abandoning the fight to criminalize the horse carriage industry, it’s curious that NYCLASS still had its online petition active on its website on Wednesday, July 19.
Rather than waving the white flag, NYCLASS appears to be engaged in a ruse de guerre.