Solvang, Calif horse drawn trolley (closeup).

City Council asked to honor activist’s life, pass horse-drawn trolley ban

SOLVANG, CALIFORNIA (PETA Press Release | Sept. 30, 2020) — Longtime Solvang resident and PETA supporter Hazel Mortensen—who fought for years the city’s cruel horse-drawn carriage and trolley rides—has passed away at the age of 85, prompting PETA to send a letter this morning to the city council asking it to honor her memory by banning the horse-drawn carriages that broke her heart.

“Solvang is not remotely magical for the abused horses who are forced to pull heavy loads for hours in the hot sun,” says PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews. “Hazel Mortensen loved this city and worked tirelessly to make it a kinder place for horses, so PETA hopes the council will honor her memory by consigning horse-drawn carriages to the history books.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit


Horse trolley on the street | Solvang, California, USA. 19 June 2019.

PETA’s letter to the Solvang City Council follows.

September 30, 2020

The Honorable Ryan Toussaint, Mayor of Solvang
Robert Clarke, Mayor Pro Tem of Solvang
Solvang City Council

Dear Mayor Toussaint, Mayor Pro Tem Clarke, and Council Members Djernaes, Waite, and Johnson.

I’m writing on behalf of PETA regarding the passing of longtime Solvang resident, PETA member, and well-known animal advocate Hazel Mortensen on Saturday. As the city council acknowledges her for her dedicated work in making Solvang a better place, we hope you’ll honor her by banning horse-drawn trolleys and carriages in the city—something she fought for up until her passing.

When the city council voted to renew Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company’s business license in July, Hazel called the carriage industry cruel, adding, “Horses are not meant to work on blacktop and inhale car fumes for hours, especially during hot summer days. Horse trolley as entertainment is not a Danish tradition.” Her petition to ban the trade garnered nearly 700 signatures, and she spoke out against horse-drawn carriages in letters to the editor and to the council. Following August 24’s city council meeting—during which numerous attendees, ranging from local residents to tourists and experts, called for a ban—Hazel wrote to me that Solvang must “accept practicing ethical tourism which is respecting animal rights.”

Your council has heard from residents who don’t want their city to be associated with this cruelty as well as from tourists across the country who will spend their money elsewhere. When I visited the Danish-style town last March, my heart sank when I saw horses forced to pull tourist-filled trollies for hours on end with no shade from the sun. Like many other tourists, the wonderful memories that I have of the city are tainted by the image of those suffering animals.

Hazel was a force to be reckoned with, spending her final months standing up for the rights of all animals. Will you please honor her decades of involvement in the city by banning horse-drawn trolleys and carriages?

Very truly yours,

Melanie Johnson
Assistant Manager
Animals in Entertainment

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1 thought on “City Council asked to honor activist’s life, pass horse-drawn trolley ban”

  1. Neither Melanie Johnson, the PETA spokesperson, nor any of the paid activists that are involved in this petition live in the area, nor are they familiar with Solvang Trolley as a local business, nor as a family. All of the claims of the horses working at inappropriate temperatures, without, rest, and without water are unsubstantiated, and the truth is, Solvang Trolley’s horses are mostly rehabilitated and rescued from kill pens and other neglectful conditions. You will find Solvang Trolley’s record to be clean of any wrong-doing with Animal Control, the City of Solvang, and any other regulatory agency. Furthermore, Melanie Johnson mentions in her letter that she was horrified when she saw the horses working last march. We were on lockdown due to covid all of last march, april, and may, and the weekends prior it was raining, so there is no way she saw us working while she was visiting.

    On Saturday, at Noon, I noticed people holding signs, horse treats, and a megaphone. Not knowing what the protesters were planning on doing, I notified the sheriff and the trolley crew. We decided to not work that day to avoid a dangerous situation.
    We found out the protesters come from the LA area, and a couple of them are affiliated with Direct Action Everywhere. This is a group that advocates for animal liberation, sometimes with shocking performance art gimmicks. We noticed Councilmember Djernaes Speaking with them. You can see the video here:

    In the video, he claims to have been working with Melanie Johnson. Ms. Johnson works for PETA, lives in Washington DC, and has called in at least two Council Meetings in the past. He expresses interest in bringing in more protesters against the trolley, and is actively looking for local supporters to join the cause. One of the protesters is Brittany Drake. in a personal video on her facebook page, she confirms Djernaes is actively encouraging more protesters to come to Solvang: In the first video, ESKO is mentioned as a likely PETA contact, who told them where to wait for the Trolley. This is no surprise, since he’s written libelous pieces about the Trolley in the past. We do not know why he has a problem with it. You can find such pieces in

    The truth is, Djernaes has been targeting Solvang Trolley since he took office. If you look at past city council meetings, you can see him constantly advocating for shortening their contract, denying their license, and waiting for another company to come and apply. He also was instrumental in getting the city to hire an out of town competitor during peak season for Julefest. This was likely a violation of the Brown Act, as he was encouraging the discussion and action over an item not on the agenda. When he was outvoted and Solvang Trolley’s license was renewed, he stormed out of the dais. You can see his 12 minute rant here:

    In short, these petition by PETA has nothing to do with honoring the late Hazel Mortensen. Djernaes is using her passing to manipulate activists to further his agenda against a local family that has given him no reason to do so. He’s manipulating animal rights activists that have no history of ever protesting horse-drawn carriages in Solvang, despite a history of nearly 50 years. I am apalled that the PETA issue has gotten so much attention, without a mention to the stress, loss of revenue, anxiety, and uncertainty that this has caused to the Orona Family

    Liked by 1 person

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