Yesterday, Montréal passed a new law banning calèches - horse-drawn carriages, which will come into effect on December 31, 2019, giving carriage companies time to introduce replacements, such as electric calèches or rickshaws. Montréal currently has 24 calèches and employs 50 cabbies.
"It's something we promised in our campaign very clearly," said City Councillor Craig Sauve. "There have been cases of horses being mistreated, horses dying while doing their calèche activities. There are issues there and it's a lot of resources we have to put in on the city's side, so we decided in the campaign that we're going to put an end to this industry."
The Montréal SPCA welcomed the new law, stating that the calèche industry is “antiquated and inhumane.” The organization also offered to collaborate with the industry to find homes for horses once they are retired.
Luc Desparois, who owns Lucky Luke, which operates seven calèches, does not agree with the city’s decision. “Old Montréal equals calèches,” he said. “People come to Old Montréal just to take a calèche ride. We’ve done everything but they’re still taking away our jobs.” Desparois, who claims the allegations of animal abuse are unfounded, has vowed to fight the ban.
Part of the discrepancy seems to arise from how calèche company owners and drivers view their trade. Pierre Lauzier, who has driven a caleche for over 20 years doesn’t believe the horses are mistreated. "They say things like, horses don't belong in the city. But we all know horses built this city. This is an animal. It is not a human being, and we should not treat animals as human beings. If you project your feelings into an animal, it's called anthropomorphism and that's a bad thing to do."
The ban was proposed by Projet Montréal, a progressive, environmentalist municipal political party in Montréal, led by Valérie Plante, who won the mayoral race last year. During the campaign, Plante stated she had seen a video on social media of a horse near Place D'Armes lying on the ground. She described the scene as "revolting," and vowed to end the practice. The SPCA and Projet Montréal believe horses should not be forced to work year-round in the streets where they must contend with other vehicles and changes in weather conditions.
In response to the ban, the SPCA, which has campaigned for 150 years to outlaw calèches, issued a statement. "The end of this industry marks an important victory for our organization and demonstrates just how our relationships to animals are evolving," said Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer with the organization's animal defense department.