At the start of Gay Pride week, fashion consultant and television personality Tim Gunn wrote a letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio saying that horse-drawn carriages are cruel, and that some of the drivers are homophobic and rude.
Gunn, a longtime animal rights activist and a strong advocate for gay rights, wrote to the mayor telling him that, “I’m proud to live in Manhattan, it can be a haven of tolerance, but the carriage drivers are warping it into a hotbed of hate. Bullies such as the drivers in these videos disregard not only the suffering of animals but also the basic rights of New Yorkers.”
“I’m among the 30,000 New York City PETA members who applaud your plan to retire the carriage horses. However, as we await a City Council bill, I urge you to address the relentless, hateful bigotry that’s thriving in the city’s tiny horse-drawn carriage trade,” wrote Gunn.
The letter was also copied to the City Council’s gay caucus and references a July 2012 incident in which one of the drivers verbally taunted an elderly, mixed race lesbian with the n-word and quipped “are you here for that dyke convention?” As a result of that incident, then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn strongly rebuked the horse-drawn carriage industry and the union representing the carriage drivers agreed to require drivers to undergo anti-discrimination training. A third incident caught on tape shows a carriage driver and stable owner hurling vulgar racist and sexist taunts at a young Latina.
Gunn continues by suggesting that “[a]s NYC Pride approaches, I ask you to watch this video, taken just last month, showing the latest anti-gay tirade from a carriage driver. It happened on May 23, when driver Omer Biyikoglu called a concerned passerby a “faggot,” among other antagonistic slurs, when questioned about whether it was legal to tie his horse to a light post in the midst of midtown traffic. Instead of answering the question, the smirking driver declared, “I don’t f-ck guys,” and walked away.
Gunn, who is currently filming a new season of ‘Project Runway,’ is the latest notable New Yorker to support retiring the city’s horse-drawn carriages. Other celebrities include singers Pink and Lea Michele, actors Alec Baldwin and Peter Dinklage, and comedian and television host Bill Maher, to name just a few.
Gunn points out to de Blaiso that although he sounded so adamant about ending the horse-drawn carriage industry before his election, not much has been done since.
“You have spoken so lucidly on this issue since before your election, but since you took office, there have been accidents causing continued animal suffering and threatening public safety,” he wrote. “One driver falsified department of health records in order to force an old asthmatic horse to work, and another was arrested for making a horse pound the pavement despite a painful hoof infection,” he added.
Gunn ends his letter asking the mayor the question that has been on everyone’s mind, as to when we can expect him “to get these abused horses off the streets?”
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