The plight of Montreal’s
calèche horses

Born free spirits, they died due to our indifference

By Georges R. Dupras

Published 2017-09-29 in

She lies in the street, in harness, for at least ten minutes. The public is told that Cocotte is tired, nothing more.

I would think that the citizens of Montreal are also tired; tired of the same old rhetoric, the same old excuses and the same old politics. If this horse was so exhausted as to lie down in full harness on a busy street, some might argue that she should not be working in the first place. Horses rarely sleep lying down unless they feel safe, and this because they are flight animals. Between 2009 and 2015, sixteen Montreal carriage horses have died after a life no civilized society should condone.

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, who ignores the advice of subject specialists*, has just spent over a billion dollars (source: Marvin Rotrand) on this city’s’ 375th anniversary celebrations. I can’t help but feel that “if” Mr. Coderre, in his infinite wisdom, had just invested some of these dollars to retire all carriage horses to sanctuaries, the ongoing issue of carriage horses hit by cars, collapsing and dying as a result of our indifference would be a thing of the past. How much would it have cost for the city to buy out the carriage permit holders? There exist several innovative ideas that could and should replace horse-drawn carriages.

Between 2009 and 2015, sixteen Montreal carriage horses have died after a life no civilized society should condone.

As another municipal election approaches, Montreal voters have a choice to make. Do we stand with the past, meaning rodeos which re-enforce man’s dominance and brutality, and carriage horses collapsing on the street, or do we move ahead with creative options and, in the case of rodeos, more progressive demonstrations of man’s cultural diversity?

Montreal is a world leader in the arts, social change and welcoming arms to those in need, but falls well behind other cities in extending compassion to non-humans.

Rest in peace Adelia, Anastasia, Ceasar, Maude… and the list goes on…

* Pit Bulls (species specific legislation)

Image: Gerry Lauzon  

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

Read also: A cruel detour to the slaughterhouse

Georges Dupras

For over fifty years Georges R. Dupras has advocated for animals. He is a member of the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), a Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC), Quebec Representative of Zoocheck Canada and past Board member of the Canadian SPCA.

He worked on the original Save the Seal campaign in 1966 that culminated in the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 1969. He has published two books including Values in Conflict and the eBook Ethics, a Human Condition. Georges currently lives in Montreal, Canada.

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  1. Paola di Paolo

    Excellent article George, thank you for writing it and for your insights. You are right there are so many possible ways that Montreal can celebrate its history and culture that do not involve exploiting animals and causing them to suffer. Excellent observation about how healthy horses would never lie down in a busy city street. I would agree the only ones who do are so sick, so broken that they have given up. Their hooves are in terrible condition, I saw a list of horses who had died, and it seemed many of them were on bute – so many of them would have ulcerations in their digestive systems if they were given bute regularly. An advocate from the US shared that many of the drivers do not give the horses adequate water because if the horse urinates in the road, the driver has to clean up the urine. Thus, the driver withholds water – again compromising the horse’s health and comfort.

  2. Doris Potter

    Mr. Dupras raises important issues concerning horse-drawn carriages in Montreal.

    No horse should have to endure pulling carriages through busy urban streets amidst the heat, toxic exhaust fumes, noise pollution and disorienting commotion.

    It’s so disappointing that our city’s administration refuses to end horse abuse. Perhaps come November, we should end its tenure.

  3. Anne Streeter

    The Montreal caleche business has been the target of protest since the late 80’s! Apart from a slight reduction in the number of licences and the temperature the horses are allowed to work in, nothing has changed. Mayor Coderre. with great fanfare, said that there are new regulations, including a work day not exceeding 9 hours. Little did he know that this very regulation has been on the books for years! Now he has thrown $500,000 into the equation – new uniforms, etiquette for the drivers etc. but nothing for the horses. However, nothing has changed (the drivers refuse to wear uniforms) and the money seems to have evaporated into thin air.

    Unfortunately Mr. Coderre is a very stubborn man widely known for sticking to his guns no matter what. We can only hope for a change at election time. For Green and animal friendly people I would suggest voting for Project Montreal. They oppose horse drawn carriages in the city and support so much that is progressive.

  4. Diane Marcotte

    Toronto has banned horse-drawn caleche rides and hopefully Victoria will soon follow suit. Why is Montreal not getting the message? We know that the drivers DO NOT take care of the animals despite them saying they do so as it is their livelihood. If the drivers refuse to wear uniforms are they fined? If they work their horses in 28 degree plus heat are they fined?

    Your new regulations, Mayor Coderre, are a joke! A full ban is what is needed, nothing less.

  5. ASB

    Absolutely heartbreaking that a calèche horse collapsed and died in Montreal yesterday. Thank goodness a city-wide BAN on the horrific calèche horse industry is coming by the end of 2019.

  6. Linda Hammerschmid

    I wish, like on Facebook, the ‘like’ icon above would allow ‘love’ when held down!
    Great story.
    Parties and grand events and discretionary spending sadly always seem, to those who spend OUR money freely, to be more important than necessary expenditures.
    Imagine what all that money could have also helped and gone to– homeless, SPCA, Seniors…..the list is endless.

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