Caleche drivers in Montreal's Old Port rebuff protesters' cruelty claims

A small protest against caleches in Old Montreal led to two protesters getting $640 tickets.

2 anti-caleche protesters say they got $640 tickets for disobeying Montreal police's dispersement orders

These two protesters say 'nay' to caleches in Montreal. (CBC)

A small demonstration against caleches on Sunday in Old Montreal led to two protesters getting $640 tickets.

A few dozen people gathered on Sunday afternoon at the base of Place Jacques Cartier in Montreal's Old Port to protest the caleche industry.

Most of the protesters are calling for a ban on caleches in the city, saying it's cruel to make horses work long hours in difficult conditions, including intense heat and traffic.

According to Montreal's rules, caleches cannot be used when the temperature recorded by Environment Canada at Trudeau International Airport hits 30 C or higher. The humidex is not considered.

In Quebec City, horses must be taken off the streets when the temperature hits 37 C, including the humidex.

The rally was scheduled to last four hours but was cut short after a disagreement broke out between a handful of protesters and caleche drivers lined up along De la Commune Street.

One caleche driver said horses enjoy the job, and the animals aren't taken out when the temperature is too hot.

Police dispersed the crowd, confiscated a number of picket signs and handed out at least two tickets for $640.

Michael Zurek, one of the people who got a ticket, said police told him the tickets were given out because the protesters were asked to leave and didn't.

"I just don't see the benefit for the horse," Zurek said of the reason he chose to protest the caleche drivers.

Michael Zurek says he got a $640-ticket for protesting the practice of caleche driving. (CBC)

'Anthropomorphism is bad'

Pierre Lauzier has been a caleche driver for 20 years. He said his horse, Knockout, is very healthy and it's not consistently hot enough in Montreal to merit an outright ban.

He was annoyed at the protesters in the Old Port.

"They say things like, horses don't belong in the city. But we all know horses built this city.

"This is an animal. It is not a human being, and we should not treat animals as human beings. If you project your feelings into an animal, it's called anthropomorphism and that's a bad thing to do," Lauzier said.

He said caleche drivers have been asking the city for better care for their horses for years, and the responsibility for keeping animals safe and healthy should be evenly shared between caleche company owners, the city and the drivers. 

"We want better care for our animals too, and we've asked the city for many things for a long, long time. And now that it's in the public eye, some things are being done, but we've been asking for stuff for 20 years, and they're still not done," he said, pointing out that drivers on De la Commune Street could benefit from awnings to shield them and their horses from the hot summer sun.

Recent call for caleche ban

Tara Schulz snapped this photo of a caleche horse in apparent distress after attempting to walk on a metal plate on the road. (Tara Schulz)

In July, a tweet showing a horse lying down in the middle of the street in apparent distress spurred the call for a ban of the practice.

Mayor Denis Coderre responded by demanding a report on the condition of all the horses working in Montreal. Lauzier said Coderre gets a report every two weeks anyway. 

"That's how it's done, the inspectors and the vets, they are here regularly," he said.

But Zurek maintains the practice is cruel and antiquated.

"Just do away with it," he said. 


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