I was interviewed for Ms. [Virginia] Daffron’s article on the horse carriage in downtown Asheville [“Yay or Neigh: Carriage tours draw fans, protest,” Oct. 28, Xpress], and it was apparent even in the interview that she was extremely biased and has ties to the horse-carriage industry.
Asheville Voice for Animals is composed of a large number of citizens who are concerned for the welfare of any animal being exploited for entertainment. If you want to present responsible journalism, I would suggest you publish an article highlighting absolute facts about the dangers of carriages on city streets for both animals and humans.
The article places focus on the fact that the horses reside on a 30-acre pasture in Weaverville, but if they remained on that farm, we would not have an issue at all. Hours on city pavement lead to debilitating leg problems, and the exhaust fumes can cause respiratory illness.
Another common argument is that the industry helps pay for the horses’ living expenses. As someone with many animal companions of my own, I am offended by the attitude that animals must “earn their keep.” This is an agreement the animals cannot give consent to and I consider a form of slavery. The city needs to ban this practice before more carriages are added and the streets resemble the carriage cluster in cities like Savannah and Charleston.
— Sarah Windle
Asheville Voice for Animals
Editor’s note: Mountain Xpress reporter Virginia Daffron responds: “I appreciate our letter writers’ feedback. I would like to respond to the two concerns they have raised: that I have ties to the horse-carriage industry and that I am biased in favor of that industry.
Regarding ties to the horse-carriage industry, I have none. Although I owned and rode horses as a child, I haven’t been in close contact with them for many years.
I did meet Asheville Horse & Carriage Tours owner Catherine Hunter on one occasion several years ago. I visited her barn for two hours and observed her horse-training methodology. I decided I didn’t have time then to take riding lessons, and I had no further contact with Hunter until contacting her for this article.
The only animal in my life is my 11-year-old Great Pyrenees, whom I adopted from the high-kill Madison County Animal Shelter 10 years ago.
Regarding the letter writers’ complaints that my article was biased, I sought out and quoted three animal activists opposed to the carriage-horse industry. I also obtained comment from the agency charged with ensuring animal welfare in the city of Asheville, the licensing agency responsible for overseeing carriage operators’ compliance with applicable regulations and the Asheville Police Department. My investigation revealed no validated complaints or violations associated with the one carriage horse now operating in Asheville.
The scope of this article did not include the carriage-horse industry outside of Asheville.”