NEW YORK, N.Y. – Animal welfare activists picketing Liam Neeson’s home on Saturday said they don’t agree with the actor that the city’s carriage horses should keep working.
Neeson didn’t appear as about 50 demonstrators filled the sidewalk in front of his apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Police watched, and doormen photographed protesters hoisting signs with such slogans as “Liam Neeson: Stop Supporting Cruelty!” and “Worked to Death!” with an image of a dead horse in a park.
Holding the second sign was Peter Wood, an animal protection investigator for various organizations that say it’s cruel for the horses to be subjected to traffic, pollution and possible accidents.
“It’s 2014, not 1914. It’s time for a change,” said Wood, who lives in Manhattan.
“Horses don’t belong in traffic, surrounded by buses. They don’t belong in the city; it’s outdated, it’s cruel,” he said, adding, “Life attached to a carriage with a poop bag attached to your rear end — that’s no life.”
Neeson, whose movies include “Schindler’s List,” ”Taken” and “Non-Stop,” is a vocal supporter of the city’s carriage horses, which are kept in stables he toured recently with lawmakers. He says the horses are not being mistreated.
“It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working,” Neeson wrote in an April 14 editorial in The New York Times.
He called the horse carriage trade a “humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs.”
Neeson said the city’s horse-drawn carriages have made an estimated 6 million trips in traffic in the past 30 years, most ending up in Central Park. Four horses have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles, with no human fatalities.
“In contrast to the terrible toll of traffic accidents generally on New Yorkers,” Neeson wrote, “the carriage industry has a remarkable safety record.”
His publicist declined to comment on Saturday’s protest.
The City Council must vote on the issue, but legislation has yet to emerge.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has pledged to ban the carriages and replace them with electric vintage-style cars, commissioned by a group called NYCLASS.
On Saturday, NYCLASS’ members joined protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They noted that the horse-drawn carriage trade was ended in at least three other cities: London in 1947, Paris in 1965 and Toronto in 1998.
The electric vehicle was unveiled several days ago at the New York International Auto Show. But Neeson said it can’t replace the horse-drawn carriages, which he calls a “signature element of New York’s culture and history.”