Animal rights activists are calling for an end to horse-drawn carriages in Prague’s tourist center. Prague City Hall has been cleaning up the center of “visual smog” by banning beggars in large animal costumes and soap-bubble shows. Garish signs are also coming down. Other annoyances such as beer bikes and faux historical vehicles have seen their operations limited.
But horse-drawn carriages have so far not been affected, and some people want that to change. Busking or begging with live animals such as birds or snakes has been banned since 2016.
Activists from Hlas zvířat (Voice of Animals) claim that the horses are suffering due to the working conditions. They are using the slogan, “A horse is not a machine” (Kůň není stroj!).
“Animal rights activists around the world are fighting for bans on horse-drawn carriages, and more and more are winning the battle. The reason is simple: the use of animals for an unnecessary human whim should no longer be tolerated in the 21st century,” Hlas zvířat states on its website.
The group has a petition calling on Prague to ban horse-drawn carriages. “Horses are forced to work in severe frosts or heat for long hours, and those who are already worn out and can no longer serve a profitable purpose often travel to a slaughterhouse in very poor health,” the petition states, adding such an inhumane way of treating an innocent animal is unacceptable.
The petition points out that similar bans are in effect in Barcelona, Toronto, Beijing, London, Oxford and Paris, and that it was restricted or would soon be banned in Montreal, Chicago, and Rome. Close to 8,400 people have signed the petition since March 2019.
The petition is on a site run by Hlas zvířat and dedicated to the horse issue. “Horses are by nature very sensitive to loud sounds, and any sudden sound can startle them. … In busy cities, there is a risk that the horse will startle at any time, endangering the lives of itself and the people around it. However, it is not just noise that makes cities an absolutely unsuitable environment for horses. Exhaust gases from cars have an adverse effect on the health of horses,” the site Kunnenistroj.cz states.
The site includes a photo of a horse that collapsed in the street in New York City, where horse rides in Central Park are a big tourist attraction. Research in the 1980s on horses in New York showed that traffic caused breathing difficulties, similar to what smokers experience and the hard pavement hurt the horses’ limbs, Hlas zvířat claims.
The operators of the carriages deny the charges of abuse. One operator told new server Seznam zprávy that the horses had special shoes to protect their hooves, as well as access to water from a hydrant in the summer at Old Town Square and blankets in the winter. The carriages are not in operation from January to March.
Operators also claim that no serious accidents have occurred in recent years. They add that they pay the city fees to operate as well, which would be lost if the activity was to be banned.