Animal rights activists urge new Jakarta administration not to let horse carriages return to Monas

Photos of a carriage horse that collapsed and died this month. Photos: Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) / Facebook
Photos of a carriage horse that collapsed and died this month. Photos: Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) / Facebook

Horse-drawn carriages, known locally as delman, have become a relatively rare sight in Jakarta but still operate in some areas of the capital. One place you won’t find them in is the area around the capital’s iconic Monumen Nasional (Monas), though that may change soon – despite the concerns of animal rights activists.

Recently inaugurated Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno has indicated this his administration will overturn a ban placed on delman around Monas (instituted by former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in 2015) after meeting with representatives from the Betawi Delman Union, which sought Sandiaga’s promise that they could once again operate around the national landmark.

“The idea is that they (delman) can increase our tourist appeal and so they can have jobs as well. The livelihood of their families relies on the horses and the horses need to eat too,” the vice governor said yesterday as quoted by Kompas. He also noted that horse-drawn carriages were a big tourist attraction in New York and that something similar could be done in Jakarta.

But animal rights activists were quick to ask Sandiaga to reconsider his plan. Representatives from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), which has long advocated for animal welfare issues throughout Indonesia and has worked to improve the often terrible conditions of delman horses, said that horse-drawn carriages were no longer suitable for the chaotic streets of the Indonesian capital, not even in the context of tourism.

“Before when Jakarta was still relatively quiet, the road were not all paved, there were not so many cars, there was less traffic and carriages were needed because public transportation was still difficult to use. But now we have public transport and the city is very crowded, jammed and hot,” JAAN director Femke den Haas said.

Femke noted that the delman who used to work at Monas came from distant areas like Depok and Puri Kembangan, meaning they are already exhausted by the time they can reach the landmark to start their workday and no designated places where they can rest. And because there are no special paths for them, they are often forced to go through busy roads where they risk being hit by cars.

The JAAN director also said that there are no regulations on the working conditions for delman governing the number of hours they have to work, how often they are given water, food and rest, etc.

Even before Sandiaga’s statements yesterday, JAAN posted these sad photos showing the consequences of the government’s lack of oversight on the treatment of carriage horses.

“This is the 3rd carriage horse collapsing this month! The new Governor @aniesbaswedan wants to hold a discussion with the horse handlers to legally allow carriage horses back, operating within Monas area. This poor horse is a simple example as to why it’s a bad idea. These horses are not provided with proper care & are worked to death. It is cruel & unnecessary!”

In September, JAAN also highlighted a horrifying incident of a carriage horse being beaten by its owner in Depok, video of which went viral amongst animal lovers in Indonesia. Fortunately, the horse was rescued by JAAN and sent to Arthayasa Stables & Country Club in Depok, but the owner was never charged with animal cruelty despite the widespread outrage and evidence (and even if he had been charged and found guilty, the fine he would have had to pay would probably have been minuscule).

Sandiaga responded to concerns about the delman horses’ welfare by stating that the owners and drivers should be trained to care for their animals so that they remain strong and healthy.

If Sandiaga was truly serious about making delman into a tourist attraction like in New York, the government would need to invest in building proper stables for them on the grounds of the national park so that they wouldn’t need to trek long distances to get there, and hire veterinarians and animal care experts to oversee their health and set strict regulations on their working conditions (as is done in New York).

Allowing delman to operate in Monas (or anywhere really) with anything less than those protections exhibits a willingness to accept animal abuse in the name of profit or political gain.

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