The Malta Independent 17 October 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Karozzini - Enough horsing around with animal rights

Thursday, 9 August 2018, 11:18 Last update: about 3 months ago

The parliamentary secretary for animal rights yesterday announced a long-overdue need for a revision of the laws governing karozzini. This comes after the second horse since Saturday keeled over in the street while doing its duty of pulling carriages laden with tourists through the hellish heat we have been experiencing over the last week.

The horse that collapsed on Saturday survived, yesterday’s was not quite so lucky.

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Such a revision of the law is certainly long-overdue, but so is apparently the enforcement of any existing rules and regulations that are already in place.

A protest is being held on Saturday that will call for a ban of karozzini, with animal rights activists insisting that horses should no longer be used for the amusement of tourists, especially during the hot summer months.

On that score, one wonders just how much of a tourist attraction these horse-drawn carriages are, and just how traditional they are as well.  As far as tradition goes, surely there not many born-and-bred Maltese who have ever set foot in a karozzin short of being a guest at a wedding.

And if people are really bent on pushing the ‘tradition’ angle, one should also ask how traditional horse-drawn carriages actually are, apart from its Maltese nomenclature.  Horse-drawn carriages are traditional virtually the world over, we are no different, but some countries that have animal rights at heart ensure that such animals are well treated and well kept.  We are not so sure that all karozzin owners do so voluntarily.

And as far as tourism goes, were tourists to know the extent of the madness that is having horses labouring under the furious sun something tells us they would gladly pass up what is, truth be told, a very expensive ride.  Were they to know the suffering these animals endure under the sweltering Maltese sun.

The laws need to enforced, and a revision of the laws is also required.  Not just for the sake of the horses that may be being asked to give more than they can to their masters, but also for the sake of the karozzin owners who actually take the best of care of their steeds.

This newspaper had recently looked into the matter and many of the drivers on the streets of Valletta, Rabat and other popular tourist areas that spoke to us described how most karozzin owners have a minimum of three horses, while some have up to five.

This means that the horses are rotated so that they each have a minimum of two rest days a week. Another myth about the length of time horses are made to wait outside for punters was also debunked, with drivers insisting that horses do not endure 12-hour ‘shifts’.

Although it makes indisputable sense to take care of the source of one’s livelihood, not all the owners of karozzini ensure high standards and a good quality of care. The law courts have in fact investigated and convicted some owners whose horses were in poor condition, mainly due to dehydration.

These are, after all, working animals, beasts of burden, and in the intense heat of summer, it is the busiest time of the year for them and their owners to make a living. This has been a glaring animal rights issue for so long but it seem still very little has changed over the years

It is hoped that the parliamentary secretary will take the figurative bull by the horns and once and for all put animal rights before the potential fallout from voters.

This may win him more votes at the end of the day as surely there are more Maltese out there who care more for the horses a lot more than they do for the karozzini.

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