Animal rights activists blocked Mdina’s main gate on Saturday to protest the “cruelty” and “exploitation” of using karozzini (horse-drawn carriages).
Animal Liberation Malta (ALM) chanted, “this is cruelty-not tradition” and “It’s not entertainment- it's slavery” as they stood on the bridge leading to the silent city's main gate.
The activist group called for a ban on the karozzin, saying that the “cruel practice” no longer serves any function beyond being a tourist attraction.
“From a tourism standpoint, there is a global move against horse-drawn carriages with more and more cities around the world taking the step to banning this cruel practice,” ALM said in a statement.
Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Prague, Melbourne, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Montreal have all banned or are in the process of banning horse-drawn carriages, the animal rights group said.
A horse-drawn carriage ride is among the touristic attractions on offer in Mdina, with karozzini often seen trotting along the narrow streets of the medieval city.
But the animal rights activists want to see an end to the practice by no longer issuing new cabby licenses and no longer allowing new horses to put on the blinkers.
“A grandfather clause should be triggered whereby existing horses will be allowed to continue working, yet upon retiring, the cabby owner cannot replace the horse with a new horse but rather go to an electric option”.
ALM say electric carriages can eventually replace the karrozin.
Transport Malta should issue a special grant for cabby drivers that will allow them to go electric, they said.
“Animal Liberation Malta has been advocating this option now for quite some time. We believe that the transition to electric would be an ideal solution for Malta”.
Animal rights activists made similar calls last March in Valletta.
Karozzini continue to serve as a tourist attraction in Malta, although rules were tightened some years ago to ban them in summer afternoons and restrict horses to three-day working weeks.