Horse-drawn carriages are set to be banned from Melbourne’s central business district (CBD) amid animal welfare concerns about the hot summer temperatures in the capital — and most populous city — of the Australian state of Victoria.
The government proposal will be subject to consultation over the next month. Ben Carroll, Victoria’s roads minister, said: “We’ve heard the community’s concerns about horse-drawn carriages and this proposal will improve safety for everyone on some of our busiest streets.”
Richard Wynne, the planning minister, said: “There is potential distress to the animals because of, really, the heat in the CBD itself…The government is clear this is important for us to recognise it’s about animal safety and that is paramount in our considerations.”
The decision was welcomed by the Victoria branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which regularly investigates the abuse of horses by carriage operators. They said: “RSPCA Victoria supports banning the use of carriage horses in the busy CBD area where horse welfare and safety are severely compromised.”
The Campaigning group Melbourne Against Horse-Drawn Carriages has written in a Facebook post the following reaction: “The road safety rule changes will not be written into legislation until further consultation is complete by the end of January and then signed off by the department. Whilst we are taking this as a win we must be vigilant in ensuring it goes through. That’s why we need you to email the relevant authorities now to thank them for their decision.”
On 21 March 2021, distressed Melbourne residents found a horse lying dead on the road, still attached to the carriage. He was on his way to the CBD for the day’s trade, alongside two other carriages. In December 2019, a driver from the same company was exposed across social media kicking a fallen horse.
This is not the first time horse carriages were set to stop in CBD. In 2017, the Melbourne city council stopped issuing street trading permits for horse-drawn vehicles in the centre. The Council argued these vehicles would not be able to park or offer rides on Swanston St due to safety risks and the construction of the Metro Tunnel project. However, the removal of the permits was not enough deterrent, as the carriages continued. A total ban was necessary. This week’s decision is a big step towards it, but it is not a total ban yet. Carriage operators will still be allowed to drive the carriages outside the CBD zone within the City of Melbourne with pre-booked passengers. Therefore, the campaign continues until no horses are forced to work as if they were machines instead of sentient beings.