Sunday, March 30, 2014



Roger retires:  In the last week,  the Daily News,  a right wing bastion of support for the carriage trade,  has run several stories about Roger – a carriage horse owned by driver Ian McKeever.  At 21, Roger is finally being retired after 17 years in the business.  According to the News, he is going to a farm in Syosset, Long Island.    They recently published this letter from “Rogerto Mayor deBlasio.      

I'm very glad for Roger but I do wonder about him being in this business since the age of 4. 
Romantic?  NO  - Dangerous?  YES
Many experts would say that was too young and he was not fully grown at 4 years.    - especially for a draft horse to begin in this kind of business.   

Yes, it makes a good story to say he was rescued from slaughter.  But to work for 17 years?  Come on.   Roger was the same as all the other horses – he worked 9 hours a day, 7 days a week only to come home to his stall and not have any access to pasture to graze and socialize with other horses; to mutually groom each other to relieve stress from a long day’s work. His "exercise" consisted of pulling tourists around Central Park and dodging cars in traffic. But a good amount of the time he was standing at the hack line waiting and waiting and waiting for customers -- not even free to scratch an itch.  This is neither "exercise" nor humane. 

I hope he can adjust to his new life.  He certainly deserves it.  And I also hope he is not
worked and made to pull anything.   At 21, Roger is considered to be “old" and should have been retired several years ago.    

Roger has brought good attention to this abusive and exploitative industry and in the hands of the supportive Daily News, a tabloid that cannot separate fact from opinion, it seems to be working. 

But this is not the whole story – far from it.  
Corporate Welfare:  In 2001, the City of New York leased a stable on W. 45th St. to Ian McKeever and his partner. - -charging him a subsidized rent of only $5,000 a month for a stable that could easily have brought the City $60,000 a month.   This is all according to Mr. McKeever as reported in the NY Times when the City decided to sell the property to a real estate developer in 2010.    In 2001, the City also paid for outfitting the stables to the tune of about $500,000.  This happened under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration.  

In other words, the City had been subsidizing a private business to the tune of almost $1,000,000 (including the fit out) over this period of time. 

Is this right?  How many other private businesses do you know of that were subsidized like this?  If someone does not have the capital to make a go of it in a business, they either borrow with the intent to pay back with interest or they do not move forward.  That is capitalism.  But to be subsidized – on the tax payer’s dime?!

There is something very wrong with this picture and the media is not reporting on it.  Instead they continue to try to manipulate the facts and choose the ones to present to you.  Don’t fall for it.

The carriage driver/owners as a whole are conservative in their politics, which means they do not like government interference or control.  But what about corporate welfare?  Is that supposed to be OK.?

But that’s just money and business.  There is something worse going on. 

Missing Horses?:  At that time, the NY Times listed the names of the horses owned by Mr. McKeever who were being sent to a “farm."  Molly, Chestnut, Max, Patty, Jeter and Bosco.   But  as of January 2014, only Molly is still on the Department of Health list of horses. 

What happened to the others?  Did Mr. McKeever bring them to auction?  Or did he find good placement for them as he did for the popular and photogenic TV star, Roger?  At the time, the ASPCA offered to help him with placement for the horses but he refused. 

Perhaps he would like to tell the public what happened to these horses. 

The City of NY does not keep records of horses sold outside the city. 

Bobby II Freedom
Big turnover of horses in business:  Last spring I released a report that showed a turnover of 529 carriage horses in the NYC business over a period of 7 ½ years – averaging about 71 horses a year.  Where did they all go?   This was a very well documented report, yet the media was not interested in covering it. 

So the public continues to assume -- because the media said so --  that the horses remain the same from year to year and when a ban occurs, they will all go to slaughter.

Were these horses too unattractive; too slow; too jittery, too weak; did they have health problems?  Were they nervous in traffic?  Some of them lasted several years in the business so this is not a case of trying the horse for a month and then deciding that he or she did not work out.    I recall a horse named Beauty associated with West Side Livery stable.  Tape was added to his blinders to prevent him from having any peripheral vision because he was so nervous.  He is no longer in the business and there is no record of where he went.     

Bobby II Freedom - I do know what happened to one of those horses - Bobby II Freedom.  In June 2010, I became aware of a NYC carriage horse at the New Holland kill auctions in Pennsylvania.  Joining forces with Equine Advocates, Bobby was rescued and is now living the good life at their sanctuary in upstate New York.  Bobby had been dumped by his owners from West Side Livery stable who wanted to replace him for a newer model.   This is Bobby's story.  

The public deserves to know the truth about the business and the media is not telling them.  


Sunday, March 23, 2014

HAVE YOU BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THE MEDIA in the case of NYC's carriage horse trade?

in the case of NYC's horse-drawn carriages?

Even if you give a resounding no – that you do think for yourself – I will bet that you've  been unduly influenced by the media – especially with this issue of “to ban or not to ban”;  - that you've believed what you heard simply because it came from an “authority” who said it on TV,  or you read it in the papers -- after all the printed word -- especially in a newspaper -   must always be correct. (not)

Since September when Bill deBlasio won the mayoral primary, there's been a media onslaught against the pending ban of horse-drawn carriages.   

The horse issue has become a metaphor for something else.       

It's  become unreasonably important and seems to represent deBlasio’s liberal policies, which are opposed by  most of the editorial boards. After all, this is the first time ever that NYC has had a progressive mayor.  Ever!    It's a way to beat him up and hopefully win.   It's  arm wrestling with the mayor of one of the biggest cities in the world. 

This is about power and influence – not about horses, drivers, animal activists or real estate tycoons. 

The editorial boards of the NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post and Newsday/AM-NY are all against a ban of horse drawn carriages and are using their bully pulpit to make it known.  This is also true of Fox 5 News; CNN, some on NY-1;
PIX11; WABC.  Fox 5 in NYC is doing editorials against the ban.  The others just follow suit because they see it as a model of how to present  this issue. 

Many of them  - especially the News, Post and Am-NY have allowed their editorial philosophies to leak over into their news reporting.  Fiction and opinion become fact and there's no way for an observer to tell the difference.  It's  Yellow Journalism at its best and it's a fight for your soul.

The NY Times, Daily News and Post all endorsed Christine Quinn in the Democratic Primary.  She came in third.  If Quinn had won, people like conservative NY Daily News' owner Mort Zuckerman,  would have maintained his access (and influence) to City Hall.  This was a blow to all of them, especially the NY Times.  After all doesn’t everyone listen to and follow their choice of endorsements?  What an assault on their power and influence. 

So when the mayoral election came around – the Daily News, which had been attacking  deBlasio on a daily basis with exaggerated accusations about anything and everything, reluctantly joined the NY Times and endorsed deBlasio over Joe Lhota for mayor.  AM-NY and the NY Post endorsed Joe Lhota and they were furious that deBlasio won the election by a landslide of 70%. 

Since that time, all of these newspapers and TV news have portrayed the carriage drivers in a sympathetic light.  They never talk about the double shifting -- illegally working the horses more than the allowed nine hours a day; or lack of required breaks;  or all of the accidents over the years; or working the horses in all temperatures after the ASPCA officers suspended the trade for the day; or  how they are cash only and it's very questionable how much they contribute to the NYC tax base; or how there might be laws on the books, but they are mostly not enforced. 

No - they manipulate the facts and the target for these lies is you. 

Why is this relatively tiny group of people so powerful?  What hold do they have over politicians and media?  We have asked this many times as we saw over the years the puzzling extent of entitlements doled out representing the city's largess.  What is really going on here?  Everyone should be asking these questions?  Every unemployed person or group of people who has been ignored should be challenging why their jobless status is not important.  Every authentic union member should be challenging why this non-union shop - with owners and drivers in the same local - has the support of the Central Labor Council.  
 What is really going on here?   

The reporters go to the stables and hold a mike in front of a driver as he talks about the horse in the adjacent stall  – a horse who was most likely just groomed who has a shiny well brushed  coat.   They get a good shot of the largest stall they have, which was probably just cleaned and bedded.  The drivers only take reporters to  Clinton Stables - by appointment. 

The reporters – whether it is from PIX 11 or Diana Williams from Channel 7 who really should have known better – do not know the issue well enough to question it – the size of the stalls; the fact that there is no turn out to pasture; they listen as the driver tells them this is a land grab by the greedy real estate developers (code for antisemitism.) They think it's OK that the horses have a 5-week furlough - not understanding that they need daily turn out to pasture – and certainly not knowing that the Department of Health does not require the names of or inspections of these so-called farms where the horses go.  And the reporters end up posing with the horse and feeding him a carrot.  Job done.   

But the horses lose -- and your soul is that much closer to being theirs.  
This is very shabby reporting.  No intelligent, challenging questions.  Doesn't anyone know how to do an interview anymore?  What do they teach in journalism schools anyway?!

And to add insult to injury, the carriage trade and "media"  are aided by the Cavalry
September 2013 accident in NYC
, an anti-animal lobby group, working with the carriage trade.  They support the grossly inhumane puppy mills, horse slaughter and a weakening of animal cruelty laws around the country. 

Character Assassination:   another trick of media manipulation.   Reporters ask us to be interviewed only to say that they got “both sides” of the story but end up framing it so it is clearly on the side of the trade.  No one reports on the real reasons we want a ban – the inhumane conditions both working and living; the unsafe and dangerous environment.    We are all lumped into one pot - "radical animal rights activists" whose agenda is to get rid of all human interaction with animals.   No one addresses the fact that many horse owners and rescuers are with us on this issue and would not dream of allowing their precious horses to pull a carriage around NYC.  But you buy the argument because you saw it on television. 

Fear Mongering: a tried and proven tactic of media brain washing.   In late October 2013,  the Daily News ran a story about how the carriage horses were all going to slaughter if there were a ban.  Mayor Bloomberg sided with them.  Even though this was intelligently disputed by Vickery Eckoff in her piece in Forbes, which is not as widely read, the threat of the horses going to slaughter has stayed with us. 
People believe what they read.  

Oreo - spooked and bolted - running terrified for blocks
Of course no one wants to know that this is where many of the horses currently go as I wrote about last year  - Where Do All the NYC Carriage Horses Go?  or that this was indeed a ploy by the drivers to scare people into stopping ban talk to save the horses.  No one thought about it enough to realize that if the horses did go to the kill auctions, it was the drivers who brought them there.   

Although this detailed and well supported documented study was sent to the press - no one picked up the story.   Revealing that just perhaps many of the horses already go to the kill auctions would have interfered with the "accepted" story the media was trying to get out there  i.e, the drivers love their horses like their children. 
1/2006 accident - Spotty euthanized; driver in coma

this is another tactic of brainwashing that the media puts forward.   The carriage trade will say that we lie, lie, lie.  They say it enough times and you will believe it.  But they are the ones who lie and distort the truth and their conduit to the world - the right wing media - will make sure these lies  get out there.  Read this blog from November 2012.  Lies and Desperation - the NYC carriage trade. 

The most recent example of an editorial gone amuck was in AM-NY on March 23-
"Horse-Drawn Carriages are park of NYC."   
Here is what they got to say in this piece unchallenged.        

·         AM-NY:  refers to the drivers as “hard working; a reminder of a gentler age and they should just keep clopping with dignity and elegance.”

·         MY RESPONSE:  I wonder if we are talking about the same city.  Take a look at this report in Irish Centra about a driver spewing homophobic and racist remarks
note:  the NY Post did not report on this incident. 
...and my blog from 2012 called A Fly on the Wall 
- the Inner Working of the Brains of the NYC Carriage Drivers and their Supporters.  - a playbook for a pro carriage horse trade campaign. 
AM-NY"But the City Council in 2010 passed work rules that sound reasonable to us.  They call for five weeks of vacation a year in a place with green pasture and all you can eat."  
MY RESPONSE:  Horses need access to daily turnout and the term "vacation" is a human concept.  They are herd animals and need to socialize with members of their herd to mutually groom each other to relieve stress.   Instead for 47 weeks a year, they work 9 hours a day, 7 days a week between the shafts of their carriage not even able to scratch an itch.  The Department of health does not require the names of the places where these horses are sent; nor do they inspect them. It is thought by some that some of the owners provide them to the Amish to work their farms in exchange for a place to send the horses on furlough.  In November  2011, the former ASPCA vet, Pam Corey was quoted in a NY Post article as saying that “We have observed some horses returning to New York City after furloughs on a farm in worse condition than when they left.”   
·        AM-NY - "Their stalls must be at least 80 square feet."
·        MY RESPONSE:  This simply is not true.  This is the law: 
“§  17–330  Regulations.  Standing stalls for carriage horses shall be sixty square feet or larger, with a minimum width of seven feet.”  Experts recommend stall sizes of 12 x
60 sq. ft. legal stall - very small w/little bedding
12 – 144 square feet for a standardbred horse and 14 x 14 – 196 square feet for a draft breed.  So these 60 square foot stalls are less than half of what experts recommend -- and that is a stall big enough for a horse to lie down with his limbs extended to their fullest. 

·        AM-NY:   “there is the prospect of  300-plus drivers who could lose their jobs.” 
·        MY RESPONSE:  According to the industry itself, about 150-160 drivers are full time.   The rest are both part time and live outside the city.  One driver manages his medallions from  Sicily.   
Charlie - October 2011  - dropped dead in street
ACCURATE REPORTING:  A real democracy demands a free press and access to accurate, quality information that is well researched and fact checked. 

We have not been getting it.  The yellow journalism that we have experienced with this issue has been extremely revealing.  No one challenges these gross misrepresentations presented as truths– from lying about the stall size; to what the so-called 5-week vacations really represent; to how the horses are treated; to the number of people in the industry.    

All these lies are accepted by what passes for the media in this town and they expect you to believe it.  Little research and no fact checking. 

POLL:  So when Quinnipiac does a poll in this environment and it results in more than 60% of people against a ban, it does not surprise me at all.  I am just very disappointed in the people who are so easily led that they will believe anything.  Since 2006, every poll taken had resulted in between 75 and 80% of respondents in favor of a ban.   

The only way this could have changed is with media manipulation.   I do not buy it for a minute and neither should you. 
Swiftboating:  Unfortunately, while we greatly appreciate Mayor deBlasio's promise to ban this inhumane business and he has not appeared to falter - he also has not helped the issue.  When I've mentioned this media bias to contacts in the media, they have agreed but also say that they mayor has not helped himself.  He has not owned the issue and has handled it in a dismissive way.  He is being swiftboated - just as John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election was when he allowed the media to slam him.  

Sometimes taking what you believe is the high road is very harmful. 

Can't Get the Truth Out:  We have not been able to get our story out there.  I now cringe when I get a call from a reporter who wants to interview me and I have turned some down.  They are only doing it because they still – at least on paper – adhere to the rules of journalism, which is to interview both sides.  But they are not fact checking and they set up the story with a slant - -against us.  I have personally experienced this many times.

I have also experienced being lied to by PIX11 after they invited me to an interview with a driver and then canceled it telling me they could not get someone from the other side.  Instead they did an exclusive one on one with a driver at Clinton Stables.  I also turned down an interview with a NY 1 reporter because I knew he was on the drivers' side and was retweeting and supporting all of their comments. 

The editorial boards and the right wing media want to win this argument because of all it represents.  They want to deBlasio to cry uncle.  Everyone who supports progressive issues - whatever they are - should stand with us on this one because if this crumbles in defeat, it will affect the administration going forward.

I am hoping that Mayor deBlasio continues to stand strong and does the right thing – and that he and his staff understand the source of this present climate.  This business needs to be shut down by the end of the year in total.  It must not be a phase out because that simply will not work for many reasons. 

It is grossly inhumane and unsafe.  NYC has managed to bite the bullet when we have had spooking accidents.  But it is only a matter of time before a person is seriously injured or killed as has happened in other communities. 


Note:  to all reporters and journalists who try their best to get the facts right and not be influenced by what they have to know is ongoing - the reporters who actually do extensive research and fact checking -- the ones who take their responsibility seriously.  You are few and far between but I do appreciate you.  And you know who you are.