Testimony of Dr. Deborah Tanzer at New York City Council Hearing to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

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Testimony of Dr. Deborah Tanzer at New York City Council Hearing to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

January 30, 2009

My name is Dr. Deborah Tanzer, and I am a psychologist. I have a clinical practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, and I do research and writing about the links between human violence and cruelty to animals. I want to speak to you today about what we are teaching our children about horses.

In nature, horses are magnificent animals. Strong, proud, beautiful. They run in the wind, manes flying, legs galloping over the earth beneath their feet. This is the horse our stories and lessons teach our children about.

But we teach a different lesson, an ugly one, when we allow horse-drawn carriages. "Carriage" horses have been cruelly deprived of their birthright to run free, to fly with the wind, to feel the earth. Even to see fully with the eyes that nature has given them, which we have cruelly blindered.

Instead, they are exploited for human amusement, and forced to carry heavy loads. They stand imprisoned, their vision marred. Traffic noise, toxic fumes, blazing heat, freezing cold, rain and snow. This is what we have mandated for them.

The lesson to our children is an immoral one. We are saying it is alright to treat horses this way. That it is alright that they are imprisoned, exploited, and sad. Far from teaching compassion and empathy, this message desensitizes us, with harmful consequences for us all. The link between abuse of animals and violence against humans is well documented, including by the FBI. In this case, witnessing the situation of the carriage horses inevitably desensitizes adults and children alike, planting dangerous seeds for the future. For the sake of the horses, our children, and ourselves, it is time to ban horse-drawn carriages forever.


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