Singer Jann Arden has spoken out against the horse-drawn carriages in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, calling them “ridiculous,” “archaic” and “cruel.”
The Juno-winning performer and animal rights activist addressed the carriage rides – a popular attraction among some park visitors and tourists – on Twitter Monday.
“Dear Vancouver,” Arden wrote. “Lose the horse-drawn carriages.”
The carriage rides have also been a regular target of the Vancouver Humane Society, which has highlighted the risks involved when horses share the road with cars and other vehicles.
In 2016, two horses became spooked by a car horn while pulling a carriage full of tourists, and ended up crossing a bike lane and stampeding down the Stanley Park Seawall.
“Having horse-drawn carriages in urban settings is just simply not a safe practice, not for the horses and certainly not for the public,” Emily Pickett of the Vancouver Humane Society told CTV News.
Apart from the potential for accidents involving vehicles, Pickett noted the horses are exposed to loud noises and pollution, and made to spend hours “standing in all weather conditions.”
The Vancouver Park Board responded to the 2016 incident by reviewing practices and procedures for Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, but stood by the company, calling the accident the first of its kind in several decades of operations.
Asked about Arden’s comments Tuesday, company owner Gerry O’Neil told CTV News his critics are “grandstanding,” and that his horses are well cared for.
“Those people could put their energy to better use,” he said. “There’s many other places that don’t treat the animals right, why don’t they focus their energy and time on those places?”
O’Neill said his company treats the horses “as athletes,” ensuring they are well-fed, rested, groomed and trained, with regular visits by a veterinarian.
According to Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, the animals work about four days a week for five months per year.
“They’re not riding horses,” O’Neill added. “They are draft horses, they are meant for that heavy work.”
While the 2016 incident did not result in injuries, a similar accident in Victoria two years earlier left the carriage driver and a motorcyclist hurt. Both of their injuries were considered minor.
Arden has also recently spoken out against the export of live Canadian horses to be used as meat in other countries.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Ben Miljure