Animal rights activists in New York City unveiled on Thursday the antique car replicas that they hope will replace the horse-drawn carriages that have traversed Central Park for generations. The vehicle will be on display at the New York International Auto show this weekend.
"This is New York City and the wow factor has got to be there," said Jason Wening, in an interview with WCBS. He was hired by NYCLASS, an animal rights group opposed to horse-drawn carriages, to develop the prototype electric vehicle, "What you are looking at is the type of vehicle that ignited the world's love affair with cars," he said.
Not surprisingly, some are skeptical that the electric-powered vehicles will have the same allure as the horses to the 52 million or so tourists who visit the Big Apple annually and spent $37 billion in 2012.
Carriage owner Anita Gerami told the station that she doesn't think that people will be keen to "take a ride in another car." There are about 200 carriages in Central Park, one of the city's top tourist attractions. "The people come for the horses," she said.
NYCLASS, which has tried to ban the carriages for years, has an ally in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made outlawing the practice, which he says is cruel to animals, part of his campaign platform.
Dr. Harry Warner, former chairman of American Association of Equine Practitioners' Equine Welfare Committee, told MoneyWatch earlier this year that a contingent of veterinarians that he was part of found no evidence that the animals were mistreated and denied that horses lack the right temperament to work alongside cars. He said the group paid its own expenses for the inspection that happened several years ago.
Animal rights groups have disputed Warner's conclusions. A ban on horse-drawn carriages requires the approval of New York's City Council.
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