A city ordinance banning the use of horses to pull the traditional carriages around Rome went into effect Thursday, in response to a wave of 100+ degree weather that is said to threaten the horses’s lives.
The decree allows for horses to resume their task after 6:00 pm, but only if the outside temperature has dropped below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The ordinance was signed last May and was set to go into effect when weather alerts reached “level three,” which happened this week.
The ban was activated after a number of citizens protested the slowness of officials to take action in the presence of extreme heat. Some politicians have gone further still, calling for the elimination of all horse-drawn vehicles regardless of the weather.
“Is there or is there not a ban on horse-drawn carriages in the midst of heat waves like the one we are experiencing in these days?” said Stefano Pedica of the Democratic Party. “Does no one has the courage to sign an ordinance that would forever ban these carriages or do we have to wait for scenes of more horses suffering until they faint from the heat?” he said.
Animal rights activists are on guard to ensure that the ban is respected and have encouraged all citizens to report any irregularities to the authorities.
Rome’s ban follows on the heels of a move by the livery company Uber to offer free 15-minute rides in horse-drawn carriages in the northern Italian cities of Milan and Turin. Uber reportedly inaugurated the horse-drawn service, called UberCLOP, as a public relations move to protest the decision of the Court of Milan to suspend Uber services throughout the nation. The maneuver was meant to be a visual reminder to citizens that resistance to innovative forms of transportation signifies a step backwards in time.
“We want to emphasize that barriers to innovation are a step backward for everybody,” said a statement by Uber. “With this initiative we want to bring you back to a not-too-distant past when the car did not exist and ready transportation was a privilege for the few.”
The taxi drivers union has been at the forefront of efforts to put a halt to Uber, saying that it represents “unfair competition” for cabs.
Meanwhile, one of Italy’s biggest animal rights groups, the “Anti-Vivisection League (LAV), is protesting Uber’s use of the horses, saying that not only are the carriages an “anachronistic and inconsistent return to the past,” but they can also endanger the horses because of slippery asphalt, city traffic, noises obviously troublesome for the horses, and the summer heat.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.