Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dignity, Animal and Otherwise

'Animal and Human Dignity' Animal rights activists demand
an end  to horsecarts on Bogotá's streets. 
Protesters on Plaza Bolivar today demanded an end to the horse-drawn carts which are a common sight on Bogotá's street. The horsecart drivers, known as zorreros, often sell stuff, scavenge and resell discarded materials and collect junk to fix or resell. 

Abused? A horsecart near the Central Cemetery. 
Bogota has a goal of eliminatng the reported 1,700 horsecarts by the end of January. The families who depend on these are supposed to trade in their horses and carts for motorized tricycles -  which would be a big leap for them. City officials say the horse carts tangle up traffic - but that is manifestly untrue: Bogotá's traffic jams are produced by too many cars. One suspects that officials' real concern is the city's image: horsecarts don't exactly contribute to the image of a modern, advancing capital city. 

The animal rights activists have a stronger concern: many - tho far from all - of the horses are old, overworked and underfed. 

On the other hand, it's not clear to me why driving a horsecart is inherently less dignified than driving a car. And horses don't smog the air, altho they sometimes do pollute the ground. 

But this city plan, like so many others, is likely to fail. The zorreros, who are overwhelmingly poor and uneducated, won't easily make the transition to a motorized vehicle, especially when they can now 'fuel' their horses for free on discarded produce. 

Near Palo Quemao fruit market, a horse lunches on discarded produce.  

This family, in which the father pulled a cart with the kids on it, might feel more dignified if they could afford a horse. 

A horsecart crosses 26th St. 
This morning, three other demonstrations were being held on Plaza Bolivar: a monthly protest in favor of the Acuerdo Humanitario, or prisoner exchange between the government and guerrillas, another by bar and pool hall owners against a city law prohibiting alcohol sales after 11 p.m., and a third calling for sentence reductions for prison inmates in honor of Colombia's bicentennial  - another kind of human dignity.

Reduce our husbands' prison sentences in honor of Colombia's bicentennial. 
As they often do, police parked this anti-riot tank on the plaza to  intimidate protesters.

This llama, however, wasn't frightened.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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