To tourists they are a time-honored, charming way of seeing the sights, but animal rights activists say Montreal’s horse-drawn carriages are a cruel and unnecessary relic of yesteryear.
A longstanding feud between the coachmen and their critics looks set to end however with the unique mode of transport set to disappear from the streets of Canada’s second city by year-end.
City Hall has ordered an end to the tourist rides out of concern for the horses. In 2018, the council passed a bylaw banishing horse-drawn carriages, starting in 2020.
The death of a horse in 2018 (Charlot) while pulling a carriage was the last straw for animal rights groups and prompted Mayor Valérie Plante to say that Projet Montréal’s decision to shut down the calèche industry was the right one.
“It is a tradition that has long been appreciated but today I think it is time to move on,” said Jean-François Parenteau, the city’s pointman in the case.
The city, he said, must “show concern for the animals.”
In April, to prevent out-of-work horses from ending up at slaughterhouses, the city said it would pay the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Can$1,000 (US$760) for each horse offered a refuge or adoptive family.
City Hall, meanwhile, is working on a retraining program to help coachmen transition to other tourist jobs.
• Post Update 12/31/2019: Montreal’s horse drawn carriage industry rides off into history but not quietly, 660 City News, by Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press, 29 Dec 2019.
Rest in peace, Charlot
• ‘It was gut wrenching,’ says man who watched calèche horse die in Old Montreal, CBC.CA News, November 5, 2018. View video of a clearly distressed Charlot dying taken by a neighbor with his cell phone. View image of a dead Charlot »
• Calèche owner launches last-ditch court fight against Montreal’s horse-drawn carriage ban, Tuesday’s Horse, Dec 18, 2019.
Montreal—Moise Cohen and his horse Chanel wait for a fair in Old Montreal on Wednesday May 18, 2016. (Allen McInnis / MONTREAL GAZETTE)