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VICTORY! Oxford scrap omnibus plans
Posted 1 July 2001
Oxford City Council have scrapped plans for a horse-drawn omnibus service following a hard-hitting campaign by Animal Aid that included a comprehensive report into the carnage and mayhem these vehicles have caused in the United States.
In an effort to increase tourism, it had been proposed that two shire horses would be forced to pull a 25ft long by 6ft wide omnibus, filled with tourists, around Oxford's busy city centre. No doubt those in favour thought that the trade would appeal to the romantic and nostalgic nature of potential visitors. But the reality - based on evidence from other countries with similar operations - is very different.
Animal Aid was concerned that, if the Oxford scheme was given the green light, this thankfully-rare form of exploitative entertainment in the UK would take off in other urban areas. Our victory, therefore, has wide-ranging and positive implications.
Copies of the Animal Aid report were sent to councillors and officials at Oxford City Council and, in June, campaigns co-ordinator Yvonne Taylor gave a presentation to a meeting of the Highways & Traffic Committee. Councillors were left in no doubt about the strength of public opposition when it was announced that an online petition on the Animal Aid website had generated in excess of 1,200 e-mails to the council in just seven days. The committee rejected the horse scheme but referred the matter to the full council - which, on July 16, and following a further in-person submission by Yvonne - endorsed the committee's decision.
There is little knowledge of this industry in the UK so in launching our campaign to scupper the plan we had to look to the United States for evidence. By consulting leading US equine veterinarians, welfare and animal rights groups, we were able to produce a comprehensive report, entitled Being Taken for a Ride: The Case Against Horse-Drawn Vehicles for Tourism.
It reveals that:
- horses used to draw these vehicles suffer a high incidence of work-related disease and early mortality.
- Injuries and fatalities have occurred in virtually every city that sanctions horse-drawn vehicles
- 85% all accidents were the result of animals 'spooking'. 70% of these incidents included human injury, with 22% resulting in a human death.
Animal Aid will continue to fight schemes such as that proposed for Oxford. Our new report should ensure that no local authority will be able to consider such a tourist gimmick without realising the full implications.