Animal right activists took part in their annual Trolley Walk this weekend, protesting the horse-drawn carriage tours that have become a Christmas tradition in Victoria.
Approximately eight people walked peacefully besides the carriages for two hours on Sunday, in an aim to educate would-be customers about why the group opposes the “exploitation” of the horses.
Jordan Reichert, with the Victoria Horse Alliance, says the reaction from passersby was mostly positive with lots of waves, thanks and honks in support. Reichert says he saw the least amount of people riding in the trolleys than he has in the past several years and takes that as a positive sign.
Tom Walker, general manager of Victoria Carriage Tours, says the protesters aren’t affecting business “at all” and called them more of a “nuisance than anything.”
“It’s a shame a minority of people can make such a stink,” he says.
The carriages have been a contentious topic for years, with a spur in push back prompted in 2018 by a viral video that showed working horses struggling to get up after taking a tumble near Ogden Point. A motion put forward by Coun. Ben Isitt, proposing the tours be phased out, brought the debate back into the light this past summer.
Reichert calls the tours an “outdated form of entertainment,” and says the goal of protesting is to have open dialogues with members of the public about the industry.
Currently horse-drawn trolley rides are free each Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. until Dec. 22 thanks to a sponsorship with the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA). Jeff Bray, executive director, says the DVBA has been following the discussions in council and supports the horse-drawn carriages, but adds there are no commitments in place to sponsor the event next year.
“For us, the only solution is to get them off the city streets,” says Reichert.
In September, the BCSPCA put forward recommendations to city council, stating they “do not have a position or statement saying that a horses’s welfare can’t be met by being a working horse,” adding there’s an “opportunity to meet the five freedoms, and what that looks like is up for discussion.”
The BCSPCA’s five freedoms include freedom from hunger and thirst; from pain, injury and disease; from distress; from discomfort, and the freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.