Letter from LAV on the carriages in Rome:
The Only Solution For the Horses of Rome
The roads that the Roman horses run through each day are paved with history, controversy and risk.
The name of the 'botticelle' can be etymologically traced back to their original function as a means of moving goods, but are now used as means to transport tourists in the city The history is rich. Historical archives and period reproductions depict the life of these coaches which were prominent in the Roman streets and piazza until the early decades of last century. This, therefore, demonstrates how at the time, they were the only effective means of transport in a Rome that was still spacious and quiet. That city has now disappeared. Those times were quite different from the urban context in which they are forced to move today. The descendants of those horses- in the name of a tradition- are forcibly maintained beyond the objective needs and the changing public awareness in a city known worldwide for its rich cultural heritage.
The controversy about the many critical aspects of this 'service' has recently managed to gain some space in the media and institutions thanks to the voice of those who, for some time, oppose it for reasons of conscience for the welfare of the animal and public spirit.
The risks they encounter every day are real. The horses are hitched to the “barrels, forced to move in a wild and congested traffic.” Even for human inhabitants and guests of the capital, the blend of pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, public transport drivers and cars is so intense and violent it can be difficult to submit to the rules of the road. This is not a in a livable situation for the horses. Within such a scenario, the carriages- which are slow moving and not mechanically- only complicates the already prohibitive traffic conditions in the heart of the city.
There is another point of view that can no longer wait to be seen. A point of view which is not difficult to imagine and so obvious to those who witness it: that of horses. These horses live on the margins of a totally anthropocentric society. They are exploited beyond measure for an anachronistic human activity. Voiceless, they remain silent in their suffering and endure it.
The “working” horses that live in the everyday reality of Roman roads as we know it and we have described, are forced to live their lives immeasurably far from what might be suitable to their well-being. They are subjected to a high level of emotion and physical stress as they move among the crowded roads that are full of strong noises, pedestrians and motor vehicles. They silently perform a task in which they have no compelling way to interact positively with their surroundings. As slaves, they are prevented by human pressure to find adequate rest periods which are inadequate.
For these fundamental 'reasons of horses', for nothing more can be done. The many attempts to regulate an activity have failed. These measures have failed even in the face of administrative measures to regulate their health and wellbeing. Measures such as building modern shelters, renting a fully equipped equine ambulance, the design of lighter vehicles, the identification of urban routes protected and reserved, the additional restriction of the works, resizing the length of a career have all failed. The efforts of the municipal government can actually protect the life and ensure a genuine respect for these animals. All measures now studied add nothing culturally to the city of Rome. The city is so vast and rich in its immense artistic and historical heritage, so ancient and layered that it certainly cannot be appreciated in a passing carriage ride
And it may seem overly rhetorical to remember the Gandhian metaphor that judges the moral progress of a nation by how it treats animals. Yet it is appropriate. The welfare of the animals in the city is less frequently considered the city in its degree of civilization. Many of our metropolitan areas are human environments that have been designed to be homogenous. The horses should be considered in the context of these places. The horses are living beings that have been introduced, and yet, it is easier to consider street embellishment or furniture, tradition and tourist attractions than the horses
In 2012 it longer makes sense to consider a sentient animal as an inanimate object. Horses are scientifically known to have real cognitive and ethological needs. However, like an inanimate object they are easy to drive, like a taxi or a bus. Unlike a taxi or bus, there are no similar modes of registration, review times, rest areas and service agreements and scrapping.
The incidents that have occurred in recent years- even after 2005 despite the intensification of the city's animal welfare legislation-took place in broad daylight, under the gaze of affected citizens and tourists, children and sensitive people have confirmed that no agreement, even if respected, is able to protect the lives of these horses within the city. There is no working agreement that meets their physical and mental status while allowing them to continue to work.
And about the consequences of such accidents, from a note from ANMVI (Italian National Association of Veterinarians) which was published in 2009:'Following the death of Birillo- the Roman horse involved in an a carriage accident near the Coliseum - the Italian National Association of Veterinarians use the words of the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, who said it was "unacceptable in form and substance."
The carriages are unacceptable. They have no purpose in the capital for recreational or tourism purposes. Veterinarians make a pledge to be professional and care for the well-being of animals; a profession to save lives
Euthanizing an animal can be a merciful intervention, reserved for extreme cases, reserved to extreme cases. In the case of Birillo Intervention was necessary due to unseemly circumstances for the animal. The ANMVI does not accept that the press has described the episode as, “Birillo is dead, and he was killed by a veterinarian by lethal injection.” Birillo was euthanized by a veterinarian due to the circumstances of being worked to death and collapsing. The fault lies not with the vet but with the carriage industry. We invite Mayor Almanno and the press to correct this. They know that euthanasia is a particularly sensitive subject of debate within veterinary bio ethics with the interests of the animal patient and the right to health and welfare. In Rome, it has become clear how this sensitivity does not belong to every citizen.
Therefore, the only action possible today is the abolition of animal-drawn vehicles. We call for the restructuring of the employment of their human drivers, the 'botticellari', a small group of people who, having been handed down from father to son a now anachronistic job can find ample space to talk about it in books and museums, without harming other living. In this way we will keep in check public opinion and all parties will benefit.
The disposal of the barrels would also provide the opportunity for the city of Rome to demonstrate a deep sense of civility and modernity as well as provide an example for other Italian communities, where similar examples of animal exploitation are also still in force. Clearing the streets of Rome of mournful carriages also means freeing the cultural image of the city from the burden of iniquity. Therefore, Rome will become very attractive in its ability to evolve over time in favor of all animals, both human and nonhuman.