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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Carriages in steep decline as animal activists claim horses are abused

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Mérida, Yucatán — The city’s caleseros, the coachmen behind the reins on those iconic “pony cars,” say they are optimistic that summer tourists will continue to embrace the idea of a horse-and-buggy ride around the Centro.

Business has suffered under the scrutiny of animal rights activists who say the practice is cruel to the horses. The topic was even a campaign issue in the city’s mayoral race. That campaign was unsuccessful in Sunday’s election, but the issue lives on.

The carriage drivers’ union leader, Einar Medina Borges, said that business has been down about 70 percent this year.

“The truth is that activity has been very low, the agitation made by animal groups has hurt us a lot,” said Medina Borges, who strongly denied that the horses are overworked or mistreated. “… we try to keep them in good conditions so they do not suffer,” he explained.

He recalled that on Saturday, for more than two hours, animal-rights groups held a protest which he said causes people to “demonize” the service.

He assured that each working day of a horse is six hours, so they do not suffer any kind of
exploitation. They are also cared for and protected from the sun and provided with quality food. All this comprehensive work is done in conjunction with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics of the Autonomous University of Yucatan.

The union is comprised of 70 carriage owners and a fleet of around 140 horses, or two animals per member.

“Each calesero has two horses, which allows the horses to rest and not be subjected to fatigue or exhaustion,” he said.

The route lasts 45 to 60 minutes depending on the traffic, from the Cathedral to the Monumento a la Patria and back. Drivers have raised their rates, from 300 to 400 pesos for up to four people.

With information from Sipse, YEL archives

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