Dear Mayor deBlasio
For me, the tragedy of the New York Carriage Horses is that they speak so powerfully to the poignant truth no one wants to address in New York: our cruelty to one another.
Can we really love animals if we hate human beings?
Can we be good to horses if we abuse people?
The horse are important to our lives and our world. Are they more important than the many people who own them, ride them, work with them every day?
Can a small but vocal social movement really get to speak for the rights of animals when they have no regard of any kind for the rights of human beings?
Can people who so wantonly abuse people really speak for the horses and their future? Can a government that calls itself progressive trample the lives of hundreds of people so unjustly in the name of giving horses better lives?
There is a cloud hanging over the mayor of New York and his campaign to ban the much loved carriage horses from the city, it is an insult both to truth and justice, and that is becoming clear every day. Even the very liberal Working People's Party of New York, a long supporter of the mayor, has seen it and denounced it.
As a journalist and animal lover and supporter of the true rights of animals, I challenge decent men and women to consider this persecution without a sense of revulsion and alarm, both at the very obvious lies that underlie it, and the cruel rage that have become it's symbols and modus operandi.
If you wish to grasp what the lives of the people in the carriage trade have been like for some years now, I would encourage you to look at this video, which shows Allie Feldman, the Executive Director of NYClass, the animal rights organization spearheading the move to banish the carriage horses from New York, responding to being touched by a woman – an opponent of the carriage horse ban – that Ms. Feldman had called a "troll" online and insulted.
The important thing about the video is that is replicates almost precisely what Ms. Feldman has been doing to the carriage horses and their drivers. A woman taps her lightly on the shoulder, seconds later she is on the telephone saying "I've been assaulted." So when a horse falls down he is abuse, when a carriage driver is 15 minutes late getting back to the stables in hot weather, she is an abuser of animals. Truth is quickly sacrificed for fund-raising and the abuse of people.
It is a painful thing to see in many ways, and I winced when I saw it. In a compassionate world, we would think of Ms. Feldman and hopes she finds release from her demons rather than turn it on the people in the carriage trade and their beautiful horses. In the world of the carriage horse controversy, the video reminds us that Ms. Feldman has become the eager and powerful face of the movement to drive the horses from New York.
She must be held responsible for what she says and does. She has not been. If the journalists and politicians of New York won't do it, perhaps the lawyers will. Or we will have to do it for ourselves.
The rage against the horses and their drivers is an injustice in itself, apart from the demonstrably false nature of so many of the accusations against the carriage trade people. It is a wonder that the mayor of New York has so closely aligned himself with people who behave so abusively and misstate the truth so continuously. It does not seem to be his style. It is an even greater wonder that the city's notoriously tough media repeatedly quote Allie Feldman as if she knows a single thing about horses or other animals when she so clearly does not know a single thing about them and has no expertise of any kind regarding equine welfare.
For years now, the drivers have been harassed and insulted. They have had beer thrown on them, been kicked and pushed, had placards shoved at their horses to provoke them, been called thieves and murderers, had the children and tourists in their cabs insulted and intimidated. They have been insulted in front of their families as well as their customers. They have faced the loss of income, future, and their chosen way of life. Many struggle now with depression and anxiety, a suffering completely undocumented in a culture where a horse falling down and getting up two minutes later is major news for weeks.
Apart from her anger management issues, Ms. Feldman has said that the big carriage horses belong in the wild, that no person will lose their job or way of life (they can drive an electric car or go hungry, that would their job security) if the horses are banned, that wonderful lives in beautiful rescue facilities have been arranged for every single horse – all 200 of them. She says the horses are depressed and lonely, she has said they can't turn around in their stables, that they are underfed and overworked, that they are often sick and deprived of medical treatment.
She says they are chronically and continuously abused – a crime in New York City. She says horses are injured and die constantly from mistreatment and choke on the poisonous fumes of New York City.
Ms. Feldman has grossly misrepresented every one of the handful of incidents involving the carriage horses in the city in recent years, and engaged in the vilest slander. I've been researching her declarations and pronouncements for months now and it is difficult for me to find a single one that is true or can be substantiated. This is not an issue of the left or of the right, it is an issue of truth and fairness and humanity.
Without any factual evidence of any kind, she has accused the carriage drivers of being thieves, thugs and the industry of being corrupt, and referred to everyone who works in the carriage trade or supports the horses as abusers of animals. She has fabricated incidents of abuse and mistreatment and simply lied about others.This is the group that the mayor says he supports unequivocally, whose cause he has embraced. Ms. Feldman's boss, Steven Nislick, the founder of NYClass, recently threatened to punch a New York Daily News photographer in the face because the paper opposes the ban.
Ms. Feldman has been the chief spokesman in the campaign against the horses for several years now, she posts frequently on animal rights blogs, is the go-to person on the carriage trade for many reporters and media outlets.
I am relatively knew to this long and wrenching debate, but I have spent months reading her comments and many statements to the media about the carriage horses, and I came to see over time that no single person in the long history of this controversy has demonstrated more ignorance about the true nature of animals and their needs, or abused the truth so brazenly and continuously. She has distorted incident after incident, engaged in the ugliest libels against the carriage drivers – accusations that are repeated without opportunity for response or any screening or qualification. This is the person journalists go to in New York City to ask about horses when there are thousands of qualified experts who are never interviewed or sought out.
I was a journalist for decades, I worked at the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, CBS News, The Dallas Morning News, I wrote for Rolling Stone, Wired Magazine, the New York Times. I cannot imagine taking seriously or being manipulated so wantonly by someone whose every other word is provably false and ill-considered and suffused with rage and cruelty.
How sad to see the degradation of journalism, a medium that even in New York City, blindly passes along hate and falsehoods and leaves the truth to fend for itself. No wonder our civics and politics are so fraught and confused.
The video of Ms. Feldman circulating online perhaps explains the cruelty and anger that seem so deeply embedded in the animal rights movement, that are so much a part of the debate over the New York carriage horses.
I am not an especially political person, but Mayor de Blasio won an impressive victory in New York City last year, he seems to have set out to accomplish what he said he would do, and he seems to have avoided the polarizing style and rhetoric that has come to characterize so much of American politics. But the campaign against the carriage horses is a cloud over his tenure, a stain on his administration. It is unfathomable.
From the first, it has been characterized by anger, a refusal to negotiate or compromise, an utter disregard for the security or human of the people in the carriage trade, and an almost total disregard for any kind of fact based truth. The mayor and the animal rights groups will not come and see the horses, visit the stables, talk to the owners, meet with the drivers, ride in a carriage. They will not negotiate or compromise, there is nothing they say they don't know or are curious to find out.
The people who understand the horses the bests – the drivers, veterinarians, behaviorists, equine organizations, animal and horse lovers – have been ignored and shunted aside, as has the will of the people of New York, the city's three newspapers, labor unions and business groups, even the Working Class Party, among the mayor's oldest and most loyal supporters.
Sometime is very wrong with the effort to ban the horses, and I am sorry to say it, but I think you can see it for yourself in the words and gestures of Allie Feldman, the person in New York City who presumes to speak for the rights of the carriage horses.
I have been writing about this affair for many months now, and I value the truth highly. I can say in good conscience that the truth of the story is this:
The people in the carriage trade are innocent of any wrongdoing. They have not mistreated their animals. They have broken no laws, committed no crimes, are not deserving of persecution, living in fear, or facing the ruin of their lives and work and way of life. There is no evidence they are corrupt. There is no evidence they are lying. The stables are open for anyone to see. The carriage horses are not in need of rescue. They do not need to be sent away to a dangerous and uncertain life in a world where 150,000 horses are sent to slaughter every year.
The horses are not sad, they are not lonely – this a complete fabrication of the animal rights movement, who seem to think horses need what human children need. The horses have not been harmed by the fumes of New York, they are not a danger to New York or its citizens. Dogs bit thousands of New York City children every year, some of them fatally, no carriage horse in New York has ever harmed a child. No dogs are being banned from the city.
The mayor is wrong to align himself with people who hate human beings in the name of loving animals. Allie Feldman is not fit to decide the future of animals in New York, nor is she in any way qualified to speak for the rights or the future of the carriage horses, who have homes and are well, legally and lovingly cared for. She is not a qualified or fitting spokesperson for the horses or any other animals in our world.
The carriage drivers are entitled to work and happiness. The campaign against them has been shameful and abominable. My very soul cries out at the mob hysteria that threatens these people and their lives working with the great horses. I believe decent people everywhere are awakening to this wrong and I believe it will not stand.
The people in the carriage trade are innocent, they deserve to be released from this hellish campaign against them.