Animal Rights Becomes Hot Topic in NYC Mayoral Race

The topic of animal rights has recently become unexpected kindling in the mayoral race for guardianship of the city that never sleeps.


7 May 2013

The topic of animal rights has recently become unexpected kindling in the mayoral race for guardianship of the city that never sleeps.

What was once considered a fringe issue, started to emerge front-and-center when efforts to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry were repeatedly opposed by Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and Democratic mayoral candidate.

Almost immediately, concerned citizens showed that Quinn’s disregard for animal welfare was a blemish on her credibility as a the candidate “committed to equal rights.” Most recently, Steve Nislick, a parking garage magnate and the founder of NYCLASS, a group dedicated to banning horse-drawn carriages and replacing them with energy-efficient (and equally nostalgic) horseless carriages, helped pay for a series of ads attacking Quinn’s record. And her popularity plummeted.

And while Quinn descended in to further scrutiny and received more venom from animal activists and everyday New Yorkers alike, other contenders in the race for Mayor took notice, and began posturing their campaigns as more animal-friendly.

A forum held on Monday night proved that animal rights isn’t just a cursory talking point, it’s a political mandate.

The candidates participating in Monday night’s animal rights forum all did their best, in various ways, to prove themselves to be tried-and-true animal lovers. Bill de Blasio bragged that his two children were vegetarians, William C. Thompson Jr. noted that he had a rescued cat, and Sal F. Albanese said his mother-in-law’s life was lengthened by the companionship of a Chihuahua named Joey. Christine Quinn was notably absent from the event.

“There is one thing I think that just about everybody in this room can agree on,” Ali Feldman, President of NYCLASS said, “Christine Quinn has not been a friend to animals.”

The forum, moderated by Tom F. Allon, who recently gave up his campaign for the Republican nomination, covered topics like sprinklers in pet stores, and how to best manage New York’s goose population. But the emotional heart of the evening, for the audience, was the carriage issue.

Mr. de Blasio, the public advocate, drew thunderous applause and hollers for his declaration, “The time for an end to horse carriages is now,” an interesting shift in ideology for a candidate who until only recently was more in favor of reforming the industry than an outright ban.

However, despite the animal advocacy energy of the evening, not everyone in attendance got the memo that banning the carriage industry was the issue du jour. Mr. Catsimatidis said without apology that he liked the horse carriages because they contribute to the “ambience” of Central Park. When met with boos and hisses, Catsimatidis, attempted to regain favor by suggesting that spent carriage horses could be housed at the Central Park Zoo. The room was full of shaking heads and expressions of disbelief for a candidate so out-of-touch with the issue at-hand.

While this has been one of the most interesting mayoral races to watch (hello, Anthony Weiner?), the most important takeaway is that animal rights is on the table as a defining issue. New Yorkers have made it clear that they want a candidate who won’t just roll into office with a puppy mill dog, fur coat, and ham sandwich and talk about loving animals, but will enter office ready to prove their dedication to making New York City a more humane metropolis for all animals. We look forward to seeing a Mayor who will give as much credence to animal rights and welfare as other issues.


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