The BCSPCA recently responded to our request for a position statement on the horse-drawn carriages (see here) with this background statement related to the horse carriages under their current position statement on animals used in recreation, sport, and entertainment.
This amendment to their position statement now states the following in relation to horse carriages:
The BC SPCA is opposed to the infliction of pain or suffering upon, or the killing of any animal, for the purpose of recreation, sport, or entertainment. The use of animals for recreation, sport, or entertainment is only acceptable if: 1) the Five Freedoms are ensured for all animals involved, including breeding animals and animals that have been retired from the activity; 2) humane training methods are used; 3) risk of injury is low; 4) their portrayal is not demeaning toward the individual animal or the species.
BACKGROUND Animals are used for recreation, sport and entertainment at a range of venues (e.g., zoos, aquariums, rodeos, circuses, film and television sets) for a variety of activities (e.g., shows, demonstrations, rides, races, competitions, site-seeing tours). Whenever animals are on display or made to perform, they face risks to their physical and psychological well-being. Such risks concern the ways in which they are bred, raised, housed, trained and transported, as well as the activities themselves. For instance:
When animals such as horses are used for site-seeing tours, they face – among other challenges – considerable heat stress. Carriage rides are typically purchased by tourists, and tourists tend to travel during the summer months when temperatures are high. Horses pulling heavy loads on hot pavement are at risk of overheating, which may be exacerbated by high humidity, as well as infrequent watering, poor access to electrolytes, obesity, poor conditioning or illness.
You can find their entire statement here.
The horse-drawn carriages of Victoria B.C. have a long and sordid history in the city.
While the idea of horse-drawn carriages are often considered to be romantic and in-line with the motif of the city of Victoria itself, these concepts are used to undermine the serious animal welfare and rights issues presented by their operation. There is nothing romantic for the horses working in the city streets breathing in exhaust fumes and being stuck in the middle of loud and dangerous traffic. Similarly, the Victoria of old with its dirt and cobblestone roads that were once common, and the use of horses as a primary mode of transportation is outmoded. Victoria B.C. is considered by many to be one of the most desirable and beautiful cities in the world, and it does not need horse-drawn carriages to maintain this status. In fact, with major cities such as Toronto, Paris, Beijing, London, and more having by-laws removing horse-drawn carriages from busy areas of their cities , allowing them to continue to operate is a scar on the city’s reputation.
Why has this inhumane and antiquated practice been allowed to continue in Victoria B.C.? Because, so far the city and the carriage business’ have been able to hide behind special guidelines for care established with the BC SPCA.
While this may seem reasonable, it is also troubling because the BC SPCA has not directly addressed the horse-drawn carriages with a specific position statement. (This has been somewhat addressed by the above background statement you can at the top of this page.) While guidelines for how the horses should be treated including feeding, stabling, and handling exist, it does not address the issue that these horses must still operate in distress and discomfort in the city streets which are a stressful environment for them.
This specifically undermines at least two of the
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom number one may be the most difficult to argue because the horses cannot tell us exactly when they are thirsty or hungry and must labor until they are fed or watered; however, it is likely that they must at times work without being free from thirst or hunger.
2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
Freedom two states they must be free from pain, injury and disease. While a horse that is lame would unlikely be put to work, a horse that is only moderately injured may be forced to work regardless, check-ups are not required regularly enough under the BC SPCA guidelines for anyone to be sure. Furthermore, if emotional pain be included in the concept of ‘pain’ then the act of pulling a cart full of people in an unnatural environment and being unable to associate with other horses in a natural way for long hours would appear to fulfill this concept.
3. Freedom from distress
Freedom number three freedom from distress appears to be the most obvious cause for concern. With accidents involving the horse carriages happening year after year, there is no reason to doubt that these creatures are in distress by being surrounded by loud traffic and other loud noises such as landscaping machinery on the routes they travel. A horse can be spooked no matter how well it has been trained and in a stressful envrionent like the city it is more prone to reaction than anywhere else.
4. Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from discomfort also appears to be undermined by the condition that the horses must operate under. Besides having to pull a heavy load, they are also harnessed into that load with no way of choosing their own path. They must also work as long as the driver feels they are capable, not being able to stop of their own accord because of any issues they may have related to discomfort. Furthermore, although their hooves are shoed, horses are not meant to walk on hard pavement for long hours. Thus, this is very bad for their bodies over the time they will work in the industry.
5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being
The final freedom as mentioned by the BC SPCA, is that the horses should be able to express behaviours that promote well-being. However, horses are not city workers and they are not meant to work nine to five and then have dinner, and spend some recreation time doing what they want before bed. Pulling carriages is not a behaviour that promotes well being. In fact, it endangers the lives of the horses, drivers, and pedestrians who must navigate this slow moving and awkward form of transportation on often congested and busy city streets.
We Believe In A Sixth Freedom
6. Freedom from compromising the safety and integrity of society
a) An animal must unduly bear the consequences of the situation it is placed in by those who appoint themselves the animal’s caretaker should the animal compromise the safety or integrity of society at no fault of its own.
b) Horses in the horse-drawn carriage industry are put in the unenviable position of being forced to work in unsafe and uncontrollable conditions where if they are spooked, hit by traffic, or cause injury to a citizen, they have compromised the safety of society through no fault of their own. This differs significantly even from uneviable rodeo situations where the horses used are only handled by the trained professionals in a closed area.
c) We have seen numerous examples of the horse-carriages drivers compromising the safety of citizens by a simple lack of awareness of people’s behaviour while on the carriages and trolleys. This is because the drivers cannot effectively divide their attention between the horse that needs constant direction and the people who need constant attention and redirection of their own behaviour. It is because of the nature of the horse carriages themselves and the demand of the driver’s attention to both the horse and their surroundings that they cannot manage the safety of the passengers as well. Furthermore, the public treats the carriages as if they are a controlled mechanical vehicle not an animal pulled vehicle. They miscalculate the danger and take unnecessary risks because of this misconception. Thus, we must acknowledge that we are compromising the safety of society by allowing horse-carriages on city streets.