JOY-RIDES HARDLY ‘JOYFUL’ FOR THE HORSES!
Carriage-pulling horses are subjected to beatings; denied adequate food, water, rest and proper medical attention.
We often use the phrase- “Don’t act like animals!” which on the contrary is supposed to come with a negative connotation. But with the animal cruelty on the rise in India, especially in Mumbai; the question that arises is that who out of humans and animals are the REAL Beasts?
Victoria’s Horse-drawn carriages are a common site in Mumbai, particularly in the South Mumbai region. These old-fashioned and elaborately decorated horse-drawn carriages are found around the Gateway of India at dusk, offering a half-hour carriage ride across the city. They are used for ‘joy rides’ to visit through Fort, Nariman point and Colaba, and finally reaching at the gateway again. But these ‘joy rides’ are hardly joyful for the poor horses for a number of reasons.
For one, these carriage horses are forced to walk/ride on roads which are similar to walking on a bed of nails for them as their legs and horse-shoes are meant to trod only on horse tracks or on a similar terrain.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, have documented how these carriage horses are made to work under the hot, blazing sun or driving rain and are whipped and beaten mercilessly in order to force them to continue working beyond the point of exhaustion. Most of these horses are found to be malnourished, and are fed unhealthy food, that is, if they get food regularly at all; along with dirty drinking water. They are not given proper veterinary care when they fall sick or are injured and are made to work continuously, irrespective of their health conditions; which I believe is completely inhumane on the part of their owners. If not for the sake of humanity, but at least for the fact that these horses are their main source of income, can the owners treat them with care!
It is absolutely horrid to know that horses in Mumbai are often forced to live in stables that are damp, filthy and filled with their own accumulated faeces and urine which get infested with flies and other biting insects. In some cases, they are often left to stand without any shade, which is a clear violation of Section 394 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888.
Many of the drivers don’t even have a valid license to ply horse carriages, as per Section 11 of the Bombay Public Land Conveyance Act, 1920.
It has only been a matter of days when an 8 year old mare succumbed to her injuries caused due to negligence towards her medical condition. She had developed ‘pus’ (abscess formation) on her earlier wounds and maggots were biting unto her hooves. An abscess is a pocket filled with pus that becomes very painful as it presses against surrounding tissue, bone, or hoof. If the abscess is not treated, it may break, causing infection in the surrounding tissue. When her owner realized that she won’t be of any use to him any longer, he abandoned her and let her go until she was found by the Animal Rights activists and was taken to the hospital immediately.
The brunt is faced by humans as well. Forced to pull heavy carriages with more than six people at a time, accidents are bound to occur on busy city streets in which both horses and humans have been seriously injured and killed.
In Mumbai, other vehicles have collided with horse carts, and a horse recently also collapsed after being forced to pull a carriage of eight people near the Gateway of India.
In September, another horse pulling a carriage collapsed due to exhaustion and was unable to stand for 20 minutes. Also, a 15-year old strong white mare, Sultan, rammed into a taxi and died on the spot due to internal injuries. The rider was riding Sultan at a very dangerous speed amidst the city traffic and had jumped a red signal when a taxi took a U-turn and ran into them. While Sultan succumbed to injuries, its rider sustained injuries on his hand and head. Plying of horse carriages has to stop or else these innocent animals will continue to meet such cruel deaths on the streets of Mumbai.
Horses used to pull carriages are forced to haul passengers in all weather extremes and are frequently denied adequate rest, food and water. They often collapse from exhaustion and are whipped in an effort to get them to stand. Most never see a veterinarian in their lifetime, and regulations pertaining to animals forced to work are rarely enforced.
“Horses shouldn’t be forced to breathe car and truck fumes all day or be driven to the point of collapse”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “The only way to ensure that these gentle animals don’t suffer and that the safety of residents and tourists isn’t placed at risk is to ban horse-drawn carriages.”
In the wake of such tragic incidents, many letters were sent to the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai urging him to ban horse-drawn carriage rides. Animal lovers and PETA’s continuous exhortation roused the Mumbai HC to action. The Mumbai High Court finally made a landmark decision to crackdown on unlicensed stables housing horses used to pull carriages. But what is needed is a call on Mumbai and cities across India to ban horse-drawn carriages outright.
A large number of cities in fact; have taken a stand and cities worldwide – including Delhi, Toronto, London, Oxford, Paris and Beijing – have banned horse-drawn carriages.
With the wake of the Bombay High Court interim order to BMC to confiscate horses that are kept illegally; PETA officials have come up with a more humane alternative for the owners of such horse carriages, so that their daily income that depended on horse-carriage rides; is not affected. PETA officials, in a meeting with Sitaram Kunte (BMC Commissioner), introduced an illustration of a battery-operated ‘peacock’ chariot and said that it might be the solution to replace cruel and dangerous horse-drawn carriages. They claimed that these would be eco-friendly and owned and driven by the existing horse-carriage owners/drivers.
What we, as individuals can do is to completely boycott horse-drawn carriage rides. We should make a commitment never to take joy rides on horses, and ask our friends and family to follow the example. This is the least that we can do on our part to help these poor horses escape a cruel fate.
– Sakshi Raina