Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Enslaved Equines?

'Animals cry - until when?'
These posters denouncing Bogotá's horsecarts have appeared over the past few days on walls and posts around downtown. Mayor Gustavo Petro has vowed to eliminate the carts and replace them with motorized tricycles by February 2013.

A horse pulls a big load in the Santa Fe neighborhood.
What strikes me about this campaign, whose authors don't reveal themselves, is its 'slavery' theme, since slavery by definition means the exploitation of human beings. Do the campaign's authors believe that animals should not work? That making animals work is immoral? If it's immoral for animals to work, then how much more immoral is it for humans to labor, since we presumably could be doing much loftier things, like writing novels or painting masterpieces.

Of course, animals don't choose their jobs voluntarily (but still may very well enjoy them). But many people don't choose their jobs, either. Just ask all those people slaving away at desks and steering wheels, hating their jobs but feeling trapped because they have to pay the rent, alimony and the kids' school fees.

A horsecart on Ave. Caracas. The carts are not
supposed to use main avenues.

In any case, there is no denying that many of these urban horses are abused, overworked and underfed. But I can't help feeling that the city fathers' primary motivation for wanting to eliminate them isn't animal welfare, but embarrasment that in this day and age horses still trot the streets of the supposedly modern city of Bogotá.

But Bogotá, despite vigorous economic growth, still has many poor people - something which civic leaders probably would prefer to keep hidden. And thousands of those poor families make their living by selling, scavenging, recycling or transporting materials using the horsecarts.

In any case, I'm betting that city's horsecarts will roll right past the Feb. 2013 deadline - as they did the last one, and the one before that one.

Reportedly, the city doesn't have the money available to buy the motorized tricycles which are supposed to replace the horsecarts - and that's a bad idea, anyway, since about the last thing this city needs are more polluting vehicles (probably with smoke-belching two-cycle engines). And, since this is an animal welfare campaign, who's going to adopt thousands of not very handsome horses?

Does the city also mean to prohibit animals like the mule this recycler on Ave. Jimenez uses?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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