Some Talk, All Action – Commercial Carriage Protests in #NOTL

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The peaceful protest, Operation Rolling Thunder, took place on December 16th in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, to protest the commercial horse carriage industry.

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

Photography: Me

Horse carriages delay traffic which cannot easily or safely pass, and on occasion, they are involved in motor vehicle accidents (carriages themselves are considered vehicles within the Highway Traffic Act).
Drivers often don’t understand that they need clear sight lines for hundreds of feet in order to safely pass a horse and carriage.

Most people who oppose urban carriages are used to being told that they have “limited horse knowledge” or that they don’t live in the country or work with horses, and therefore have no right to render an opinion. But much of the propaganda being churned out in favour of the commercial carriage industry takes the form of attesting to the carriage horses’ overall “happiness” and wonderful working conditions, and this is something we can all fact-check.

The insistence that “horses love to have jobs” is an oft-repeated statement in the carriage trade;  I’ve heard it uttered many times in defence of working horses for 8-12 hour days.  It’s derivative of the old “christian work ethic,” which every true believer is supposed to apply in the realm of their employment – everyone should work to support themselves and idleness is to be abhorred.  For horses and those individuals who used horses for their labour, it would be rare to find evidence of real friendship, because the primary relationship to the horse with an actual job was usually exploitative. It is more accurate to say that horses, because of their compliant nature towards humans, do not actively show aversion to the many things humans ask them to do.  They may like interaction with humans very much, but there’s no indication that they “love having jobs.”

According to carriage operators, protests are both “good for business,” yet simultaneously frustrating for carriage operators – https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/8708125-sentineal-carriages-owner-frustrated-by-notl-protests/

A publication by European equitation scientists suggested that, when given the choice, horses prefer not to work at all; in fact, it appears that they’d rather be back in their resting place with their food and equine pals. It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to assume that horses might prefer not to have to be bitted for long periods of time either.  Some equestrians have found that feeding horses with bits in their mouths may also be a choking hazard, but the bridle, and therefore the bit, can’t be removed from horses while they are put to carriages for safety reasons.

When we keep horses engaged in work or put to a carriage for as long as 8-12 hours, whether we think they like it or not, we overcome horses’ innate responses and thus ignore their behavioural preferences. We need always to bear in mind that its the “tractability” of draft horses in particular that makes them easygoing animals, but that characteristic also makes them vulnerable.

Other people feel that the carriages themselves are at odds with the traffic in an urban environment – which has resulted in sharp, civic discontent in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake.  Horses and cars do not mix well wherever you find them and if there is a collision it is always the horse (and passengers) who will be worse off for it.  Most carriage companies typically represent their industry as accident-free or low risk, but even in a quaint town like NOTL that isn’t the case.

Yes, there was a carriage accident in NOTL.

Click to open PDF document

It was reported to the Niagara Regional Police and requested by FOIA. According to the NRP, the horse appears to have been thankfully unhurt. For understandable privacy reasons, the report does not identify any individuals or circumstances of the accident, or whether any charges were laid. The dates in my original FOIA (2014 – 2018 – provide only a 5 year “snapshot” in a 30 year history of carriages in the town), did not cover the exact date of the accident, but my contact at NRP helpfully provided that one was on record in 2013.  The incident demonstrates that even with the slow pace in the quaint town of NOTL, accidents with carriages will still occur.

 

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

2 responses »

  1. Hi Heather,  Thank you for writing this article.  I always hate seeing the awful stories of the horses collapsing for so many unnecessary reasons.  The abuse and neglect, let alone the danger need to be stopped. Sincerely,Nancy PhillipsKalamazoo, MI

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