High time to ban horse-drawn carriages in Philadelphia


Horses have no place in the streets of 21st century cities. It sounds like a no-brainer, but in reality, many 2,000-pound horses weave their way through the busy traffic of Philadelphia every day, at their own risk and that of all pedestrians, motorists and cyclists around them.

Horse-drawn carriages were historically the main engine of people and goods. There was no other option until the internal combustion engine was popularized a century ago and horse-drawn cars were replaced by automobiles. Their replacement was motivated not only by new technologies, but also by changing cultural values ​​which emphasized efficiency, sanitation, safety and animal welfare.

After 50 years of virtually horse-free streets, horse-drawn carriages were reintroduced to Philadelphia during the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 as a tourist attraction. This form of entertainment has attracted some tourists, families and romantics, but has been controversial from the start and has fallen out of favor in recent years.

READ MORE: Horses who worked hard for Philly Carriage Co. retreated to 139-acre sanctuary

The animal welfare problems caused by this practice are serious. Some of them were described by Holly Cheever, a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, in a letter to city council member Mark Squilla expressing support for a legislative ban on horse-drawn carriages in Philadelphia. Team horses suffer from: a respiratory deficiency resulting from the constant work of the horses from the nose to the tailpipe; lameness due to excessive pounding by horses on city paved surfaces; and heat prostration during extreme temperatures.

Public security is threatened by the horse-drawn carriages. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists must share roads with horses, animals with highly developed flight control triggered when surprised by an unexpected or threatening stimulus, causing them to rush immediately and leading to serious accidents. Such collisions have occurred in Philadelphia and occur regularly in cities that allow the use of horse-drawn carriages. The risk of an accident is only increased by the fact that horse-drawn vehicles often circulate in cycle lanes.

The Philadelphia carriage industry has been the subject of academic research projects. A group of doctoral students from the Strategic Leadership and Complex Systems Leadership programs at Thomas Jefferson University conducted a case study last year, which concluded that as awareness of the issues associated with horse-drawn carriages increases, the demand for carriage rides will decrease, creating an unprofitable and non-viable business.

Jefferson’s study focused on market trends, particularly animal welfare concerns of Millennials – the generation who travel the most and are most likely to spend more money on vacation – and Gen Z. Eighty-six percent of 18-29 year olds are willing to spend more on their trip if it means the experiences are completely ethical. Tour operators are rushing to meet this demand by developing animal-friendly policies, such as TripAdvisor, which changed its 2016 policy to “no longer book attractions where animals have been forced into unnatural situations at times. entertainment purposes ”.

READ MORE: Philly carriage rides remain as New York’s de Blasio sues ban

Clare Weeden, Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Marketing at the University of Brighton, conducted an analysis of tourism in Philadelphia in 2020, focusing on the city’s controversial horse-drawn carriages. She concluded that “raising awareness among residents and tourists about animal welfare means that one day very soon, the existence of team horses as part of a marketed tourism product will become unacceptable to most people.” . Dr Weeden noted that Philadelphia has the opportunity to become a leader in “responsible tourism”, setting the standard for differentiating the tourism market by promoting a particular concern for environmental and animal welfare issues.

As bans on horse-drawn carriages continue to be enacted in cities around the world – including Chicago, Salt Lake City, Montreal, Mumbai and Amsterdam – horseless electric cars (electronic cars) are increasingly taking their place. . Similar in appearance to 18th-century horse-drawn carriages, electric cars are battery-powered and provide riders with both a historic experience and a cruelty-free activity.

Banning horse-drawn vehicles will require political will. Many concerned citizens have encouraged council member Squilla, in whose district the cars are driven, to introduce legislation banning the practice, and urged council member Kathy Gilmore Richardson to include a ban on horse-drawn carriages in comprehensive traffic legislation. road safety that the Transport Environment Committee The sub-group she heads is discussing.

Horses have no place in the streets of 21st century cities. Just as it was a century ago, new technologies and evolving cultural values ​​are driving a change that can and must eliminate the use of horse-drawn carriages from the streets of Philadelphia – once and for all.

Janet White is the founder and director of Carriage Horse Freedom, a solutions-driven animal rights organization that works to secure a legislative ban on horse-drawn carriages in Philadelphia while promoting their replacement with horseless electric carriages.


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