A traditional horse carriage in the Spanish city of Cordoba, Source: Depositphotos

Spain aims to nudge cities to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric equivalents

Spain aims to nudge cities to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric equivalents

Animal welfare groups and municipal governments have been campaigning to end this anachronistic tourist practice

Horse-drawn carriages clicking and clacking on cobbled streets. You can hear it in your head – the romantic charm of bygone eras, yet something still visible in European cities as a tourist attraction. Well, in the case of Spain, authorities are already thinking of ways to encourage local governments to ban the practice due to changing standards in animal welfare and cruelty.

Currently, there is draft legislation on animal protection being worked on by the Spanish Ministry of Social Rights to that end. The aim of the officials, as reported by local media, is to initiate government support for pilot projects led by cities, which will see the retiring of horse-drawn carriages and replacing them with electric buggies. The latter are designed to look like the traditional vehicles, though powered by a clean, quiet engine.

Palma leads the charge

One city in particular, Palma de Mallorca, made news last year when it announced that it will ban horse-drawn carriages from 2024 following the viral footage of a horse collapsing on the street due to heat exhaustion in the summer.

This incident, which traumatized tourists and onlookers stirred the pot enough for policymakers to quickly convene and introduce the new regulation in favour of electric buggies.

As an interim move before the ban comes into force in 2024, the Palma council has brought in an immediate reform. It prevents horses from being forced to work when yellow, orange, or red heat warnings are in place. 

Other Spanish cities, however, for example, those in Andalusia, have not been moved, as traditions there hold more steadfastly. In Seville, the proposal of several activist groups to end this activity is not to the liking of the City Council and the local coachmen say they are not alarmed to see their jobs threatened. 

From equine to electric?

According to Spanish News Today, several horses die every year from exhaustion and dehydration on Spanish streets, and vets have concluded that standing for long periods on city streets, exposed to noise, heat and pollution is harmful and traumatic to the animals.

The problem with the new proposed draft legislation, however, is two-fold. On one hand, the Social Rights Ministry cannot outrightly ban horses from the streets since the Ministry of Agriculture considers productive animals to be part of its competence. On the other hand, the cities have not yet regulated and certified the use of electric horse carriages, as they are considered slow-moving vehicles.

As much as a city council would like to implement the use of electric carriages in its municipality, there is still no approval by the Ministry of Industry for its use, and we have taken the first step to activate this process," explained Sergio Torres from the General Directorate of Animal Rights, as quoted by 20 Minutos.

While Spanish bureaucracy is trying to figure a way out of the conundrum, the Animal Rights Directorate has announced that it will support Palma de Mallorca City Council by preparing a pilot project for electric buggies, the first of which is expected to debut in the spring of 2024 on the Balearic capital’s streets.



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