At War for Animals Niagara (AWFAN), the group that’s long been calling for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in Niagara-on-the-Lake, made an appearance at the Niagara Icewine Festival on Sunday.
A group of seven protesters stood outside entrances of the Icewine Village, on Queen Street, to condemn speciesism, which AWFAN defines as objectifying animals by using them as property. This was the first of a series of protests aimed at targeting tourist-heavy events sucgh as the Niagara Icewine Festival, said group spokesman Adam Stirr. “The action that we would most like to see is for the citizens of Niagara-on-the-Lake to recognize that this is a problematic thing to have happening in their community.”
Stirr said a long-term solution would be for the town to mandate electric carriages and ban those pulled by horses. For now, he said, he hopes to educate people about speciesism, prompt research and ignite a discussion about the issue. “Hopefully we’ll be getting people today doing Google searches.” The group planned to protest from inside the event, but decided that “could be problematic” and opted stay outside of the boundaries placed at each entrance, said Stirr.
Insp. James McCaffery, the Niagara Regional Police district commander for Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, was present at Sunday’s protest. While it was uncertain whether or not protestors would be permitted inside the public space, he commended the group’s decision. “They’re not going to push the limits of the law and I support that,” he said. “As long as they’re doing what’s in the confines in the law, we will be here to keep the peace.” McCaffery is one of several NRP officers who continue to meet with AWFAN, he said. AWFAN discloses its plans and police advise it to stay inside the legal limits.
“They have the right to protest, the businesses have the right to operate, we just make sure everyone is doing what’s within the legal confines,” he said. Reactions from people passing by varied. St. Catharines resident Katherine Vera supported the protest. She said she and her family have always been against horse-drawn carriages because they don’t think it’s fair for horses to have to work, especially on hot or cold days. “I really don’t like it,” she said.
Emily Hyde, who’s lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake for 20 years, said she recently took her daughter and grandchildren on a horse-drawn carriage ride. She also had a horse-drawn carriage at her daughter’s wedding. Hyde said she supports the local business and appreciates its service. “I think they enhance the town.” Hyde said, from what she can tell, the horses are well kept and happy and pulling the carriages is “not an awful hardship.”
The horse-drawn carriages were not in service during Sunday’s protest.