Neeson defends New York's horse-drawn carriages
Irish actor Liam Neeson has ridden to the defence of the endangered horse-drawn carriages of Central Park, one of New York's most famous institutions.
Bill de Blasio, the city's mayor, wants to ban the popular site-seeing carriages this year after a campaign by animal rights groups backed by celebrity supporters such as Alec Baldwin, Miley Cyrus, and Pamela Anderson.
Critics argue that the industry is inhumane and dangerous as horses are made to pull a heavy carriage on hard roads amid busy traffic and polluted air.
But Irishman Neeson (61), a New York resident, has taken to the opinion pages of 'The New York Times' to defend the industry's drivers and stablehands, and criticise the mayor's plans to replace the carriages with electric-powered replicas of vintage cabs.
Neeson said he was a horse lover who grew up riding the animals on his aunt's farm in Co Armagh. He insisted that the carriage trade was a humane and regulated industry, that the stables were well kept and inspected, and that injuries were rare.
"I can appreciate a happy and well-cared-for horse when I see one," he wrote. "It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working." He called the proposed ban "a class issue" – a clear dig at Mr de Blasio's left-wing politics – when he argued that the livelihood of workers was under threat because "real-estate interests" eyeing up the stables for redevelopment were funding the industry's animal rights critics.
"We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitised metropolis, where local colour and grit are thrown out in favour of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?" (© Daily Telegraph, London)