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Oct. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
Local News
Protesters not stirring up much ruckus
Eric VanNoort and Dan Turner, supporters of Locals for Carriages, protesting the protesters on Saturday. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Opposing protesters in the horse and carriage debate in Niagara-on-the-Lake made another stand on Queen Street Saturday afternoon. Proponents on both sides of the ethical fence were out in full force in Old Town.

Locals for Carriages, a counter-activist group supporting Sentineal Carriages, arrived at the corner of King and Queen streets early to claim the spot and ensure the protesters had to relocate, said Jennifer Jones-Butski, co-founder of Locals for Carriages.

Over the afternoon, about 30 members of Locals for Carriages showed up to support the Sentineal family's business and make it clear that they don't want the protesters in town anymore.

Eric VanNoort was dressed in a horse costume for the cause, advocating for the horses by holding a sign with the message, “Let me earn my keep.”

The activist group At War for Animals Niagara has claimed the corner of King and Queen for previous demonstrations as that is where Sentineal Carriages has been picking up riders for more than 25 years.

Members of animal rights group were seen holding their signs on corners all the way down Queen Street.

Laura Sentineal, owner of Sentineal Carriages, said she has no issue with the peaceful protests.

“Standing across the street with signs, that’s fine. A little distance, I would like a little more distance, but having a bit of a distance makes everyone safer and a little more comfortable,” she said.

The Lake Report spoke to visitors, residents and shop owners  during the protest, many of whom said they either weren’t interested or had no issue with the protest taking place.

Kathleen House and Ian Daley, visiting from Mississauga, said members of the activist group weren't hurting anyone by holding signs and making their point peacefully.
After understanding specifics about speciesism -- defined as discriminating against animals by assuming that humans are superior -- Daley said he doesn’t agree with the idea, adding he doesn't understand holding protests when the horses seem to be well taken care of. 

If it was a matter of mistreatment, House said she could understand the concern, but the speciesism argument just “seems ridiculous.”

Kayla Kelman, manager of Allways Antique Photo at Queen and Victoria streets, said she didn’t notice the protesters throughout the day, even though some were directly in front of her store. She said she had no problem with the group standing outside with signs.

At War for Animals Niagara has held a number of protests in Old Town, often on busy weekends throughout the summer.

On April 13 the group appeared on the street holding signs urging an end to speciesism and asking that horse-drawn carriages to be banned. Vehicles with signs on their doors promoted the cause by driving up and down Queen Street during the demonstration.

Two Niagara Regional Police officers were but said no trouble arose.

Const. Mike Malachowsky said the activist group informed the department that a large number of supporters were expected to participate.

“We met with both sides before it started … It’s been nice and peaceful, which is what we want.”

Malachowsky said the protesters are not required to inform the police department when they will be protesting, but they often do so as a courtesy.

“Whenever something like this happens, they let us know ahead of time. They noticed there were going to be more people today, so they dispersed along the intersection.”

He said this is the first time the group has spread out down Queen Street. “Just so they’re not congesting.”

Sentineal was on scene during the protest. She said the carriage company received a lot of support from residents and visitors, but said the issue is getting old. She said the protests did not appear to be having an impact on the day’s business.

“Anyone who is interested in (the protesters') viewpoint have had ample opportunity to get up to speed with it, and nobody cares. That’s kind of the bottom line. They’ve made their point. Now they are just being very redundant,” Sentineal said.

She is concerned with the influx of vehicles to town for he protest. She said it’s dangerous and thinks the animal rights activists “would love for something to happen to the horses,” to further their claims about the use of horses being unethical.

Members of the protest group were approached several times over the afternoon, but they declined to comment. Volunteers directed The Lake Report to spokesperson Adam Stirr, who refused to respond.