Rome’s horse-drawn carriages labelled ‘animal abuse’ after video shows horse falling in the street

Activists call on mayor to ban the practice

Helen Coffey
Monday 21 October 2019 15:25 BST
Rome horse collapses in street

Animal rights activists are calling for a complete ban on horse-drawn carriages in Rome after a video emerged of a horse that had collapsed in the street.

The animal had slipped on a manhole cover, according to reports, but the carriage driver saw no need to seek medical attention.

“We find the behaviour of the driver unacceptable, who, although invited by passers-by to visit a vet, continued his journey as if nothing had happened in the direction of Piazza di Spagna,” Rinaldo Sidoli, a member of animal and environmental activist group Alleanza Popolare Ecologista, wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the video.

“Subjecting animals to inhuman labours in the name of an anachronistic tradition is animal abuse.”

He added that the horses in Rome are expected to pull heavy loads, claiming the carriages alone weigh 800kg, with dangers including traffic and slippery pavements.

The incident occurred at 10.30am on 17 October in Via Condotti and the video has since been viewed 54,000 times.

Alleanza Popolare Ecologista is calling on Virginia Raggi, the Mayor of Rome, to ban the practice of horse-drawn carriages altogether, “to stop this unjustified exploitation of animals”.

They said that seeing the horse fall left many tourists “appalled”, adding: “The time has come for Parliament to listen to the growing sensitivity of Italians to animal rights.”

“The recent footage from Rome is heart-breaking, and shows why educating owners is key,” Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (Spana) told The Independent.

However, he said the answer wasn’t necessarily a complete ban: “Where there is kindness and compassion protected by enforceable animal welfare legislation, it guarantees the necessary standards for working animals. With an understanding of animal welfare, horse drawn carriages can continue to function in an ethical way, supporting the owners that survive on them as a means of vital income.”

Many mayors have promised to tackle the practice, with Raggi pledging to ban it as part of her 2016 campaign.

In 2017, the local authority announced plans to move the horses from the streets to Rome’s parks, plus introduce a ban on them having to do tours from June to September and when the temperature exceeds 30C.

However, in practice, not much has changed – despite Raggi claiming that Rome was “a leader in safeguarding and protecting animals” back in July.

ENPA, the national agency for animal protection, has added its voice to the call for horse-drawn carriage rides to be abandoned: “During the election campaign the mayor promised to save the horses from the chaotic streets of Rome – we ask national politicians to take charge of this emergency,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.

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James MacColl, World Animal Protection UK head of campaigns, told The Independent: “Rome’s authorities need to urgently review the rules governing carriage horses following the collapse of a horse and consider halting the practice until a review of welfare checks are made. Commitments must be made to ensure Rome’s carriage horses have access to clean, fresh water, food, appropriate veterinary care and shade for horses waiting for custom.”

There are currently around 80 horses working in Rome, and 32 people have licences to drive horse-drawn carriages. Raggi has stated no further licences will be issued.

It’s not the first time an incident has raised concern for the equines’ welfare; in 2012, police had to stop a man repeatedly beating a horse which had collapsed by the Spanish Steps in hot weather.

Krissy Roe, head of values at Responsible Travel, advised holidaymakers: “As with all animal interactions the key is that the animal should be put first, not the tourist. The main advice is to ensure you are always giving your trade to enterprises that looks after the animals well.”

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