Supporters and opponents of a move to ban carriage horses in New York City both held rallies to make their cases Monday as a bill that would get rid of the industry was introduced in the City Council.

By Nikita Stewart, New York Times

Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez introduced the legislation and were joined by supporters who said it was cruel to allow horses on city streets.

“These animals have been stripped of the ability to do anything that comes naturally to them,” said activist and filmmaker Donny Moss. “Tradition and jobs are not an excuse for inhumane treatment of animals.” 

Other councilmembers joined carriage drivers and union members to speak out in support of the industry, saying the horses were well taken care of and that eliminating the industry would be a blow to the drivers and their families.

“We are not going to stand by and let the administration just wipe out an industry,” said George Miranda, president of Joint Council 16 of the Teamsters union, which has supported the carriage owners.

A ban on horse carriage rides, a popular and traditional tourist attraction in Manhattan’s Central Park,, was a 2013 campaign promise of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The debate over the issue has grown contentious. Supporters of the ban donated $1.3 million to de Blasio’s campaign, something that those who opposed it brought up at their rally.

Support for the drivers and carriages has come from different corners, including actor Liam Neeson, who led a campaign that showed off the industry as an integral part of New York City’s history.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2015 issue.