The question of whether New York’s horse-and-carriage business is inhumane to the animals is not a new one. For years people have debated whether it should continue. Mayor Bill de Blasio made it an issue again way back when he was just a mayoral candidate, voicing his intention to outlaw it upon being elected to office.
The conversation about this old New York practice took a 21st century turn when eCarriages were presented to the public as an alternative by an animal advocacy group called NYCLASS last week. The possible price tag for this automated alternative: $450,000.
But the debate took a star turn when Liam Neeson, the action hero known for taking out baddies in movies like Taken and Non-Stop, came out of left field and shared his thoughts on the topic while he paid a visit on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
“The horse carriage industry… they made the roads in New York,” he said. “These organizations they want to put out all this false information about how the horses are treated. These guys treat the horses like their children.” He also takes up the cause of the hansom drivers and their livelihood in this op-ed that appeared in The New York Times.
Fast forward and you have protesters gathering in front of Neeson’s apartment building over Easter weekend, and this week’s cover of The New Yorker (right) that questions who should be doing the pulling.
So that escalated didn’t it?
It’s a testament to the strength of star power. While Neeson isn’t the first celeb to speak on the topic, his stance on it is unique. Stars from Wendy Williams to P!nk and Alec Baldwin have come out in opposition. Neeson takes a very romantic view of the carriages and their place in the city’s landscape.
And certainly, by lending his voice to the issue, he reinvigorated it. When it reaches the level of getting a cover illustration on The New Yorker, the discussion has gotten loud.
As of this afternoon, the New York Daily News says that the New York State Horse Council is calling the treatment of NYC’s horses “humane” after taking a closer look at the stables, joining the newspaper in its “campaign to save the city’s carriage industry.”
And now it looks like Mayor de Blasio is backing down some from his support on a ban. Not only has Neeson made an impact, but unions, big-time de Blasio supporters, are asking the Mayor to reconsider.
So there could be a compromise on the horizon, perhaps moving them within Central Park. And if there is, we’ll be talking about this issue again at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Update: Reports say a horse, Spartacus, apparently scared by a bus on Fifth Avenue near Central Park South, collapsed on the street on Thursday and became pinned under his carriage. The carriage had no passengers. Documentarian Donny Moss, who made a movie about the horse-and-carriage business, says six horses have been spooked in this manner over the past 10 days.
The group Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park gives a different account of the incident, saying one horse unexpectedly pulled away from the curb, got tangled up with Spartacus and caused the melee.
“Unharmed, Spartacus was reharnessed and rehitched to the carriage, whereupon he was driven directly home to his stable on West 38th St. to await the arrival of the vet. In all, this was a very minor incident with no injuries whatsoever to horse or human,” the statement says.
Incredibly, this issue is threatening to derail discussion of other issues of importance to Mayor Bill de Blasio as the local Daily News posts stories about it each day and other celebs, like Tracy Morgan, speak out. Time for the mayor’s communications director to step in.