Tricycles for cart scheme saves horses in Turkey’s Edirne

Horse carts have been a staple of Keşan, a town in the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne, for decades. The local municipality’s new project seeks to eliminate the practice where locals would carry loads and people in rustic horse-drawn carts and give a new life to the animals of burden. The horses have been replaced with electric tricycles and are now being sheltered at a care home for stray animals.

Sevinç Cebeci, who heads a local animal charity in the town, said horses would be given to their new owners – on the condition that they would not be used for transportation of goods – after they underwent rehabilitation and treatment for injuries they suffered from years of work pulling carts. Hasan Nural, a vet at the shelter, told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday that they had received 12 horses so far and 34 more would arrive soon.

“They are in stables now and we treat and care for them. They will later be shipped to farms or individuals willing to own them but only as pets. They will not be forced into transportation tasks,” he said. Nural said most horses were not cared for properly by their past owners and they were nursing them back to full health. “It will take another 10 or 15 days for them to recover in full,” he said. “They were confused when they first arrived here. It was the first time they roamed freely, without any burden, in such a large space. They now feel comfortable,” he said.

Cebeci hailed the municipality’s project, which she says addressed a public concern for animal rights. “We hope they will be better cared for. Horse cart owners were given tricycles but authorities should do something to prevent them from purchasing horses again. They may impose fines so this practice will be history,” she said. She vowed they would monitor the new ownership process for horses so that they would not fall into the hands of owners using them to carry heavy goods.

Last year, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) and other municipalities came under fire when it was discovered that several horses IBB sent to other cities for adoption had allegedly disappeared. Those horses were earlier saved from the much-criticized practice of being used to pull carriages serving tourists on Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands. Animal rights had hailed the decision while several other municipalities had joined Istanbul in scrapping the practice.

Though they are a less common sight nowadays, thanks to electric alternatives like the tricycles, horse carts are still used especially in disadvantaged communities in rural parts of Turkey or in small towns like Keşan. Owners say they are properly cared for, while animal rights developed say prolonged use of horses and donkeys to carry goods or transport people amounts to torture, something punishable with prison terms under a landmark animal rights bill introduced last year.

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