By Hannah Pledger-Firth (3-minute read)

With summer fast approaching, Victor Harbor is braced to accommodate an influx of tourists. A beautiful beachside town, Victor is an ideal destination for a quiet and relaxed holiday away, even with the cancellation of schoolies this year.

While the picturesque Waitpinga Beach and steam-powered cockle train provide a source of wholesome, cruelty-free entertainment, the same cannot be said for Victor Harbor’s famous (and infamous) horse-drawn tram.

Poor Treatment

Victor Harbor tram
 Poor treatment: A Clydesdale put to work pulling the Victor Harbor tram Shutterstock image

The tram is a 4.8 tonne carriage that is pulled across a 3.1 km tramway by a single Clydesdale horse [1]. The Clydesdales have been made to pull the tram in unsuitable weather conditions, which was the cause of an accident when a horse fell over on the Causeway to granite island. Despite the causeway being excessively wet due to the extreme rain, the horse was forced to take the trip anyway, putting the animal in harm’s way. Luckily the horse was reported to have recovered with no injuries [2].

Concerns have also been raised about the council’s treatment of the Clydesdales since the passing of horse BJ Coop. BJ Coop, who was a part of the tram team, died under the care of the council due to a foot condition called Laminitis. The vet report showed negligence by those who cared for the horse, with the horse being in poor body condition and having little gut fill [3].

Profit Over Morality

The section 41 ‘Horse Tram Advisory Committee’, whose role was to oversee the horses and horse tram was disbanded in 2015. The committee has since transitioned to a body called the ‘Victor Harbor Horse Tram Authority’, who in the ‘Objects and Purposes’ section of their charter sites no intention to oversee the treatment and wellbeing of their horses, but rather to ensure economic growth, promote community participation, and maintain good appearance, amongst other business-oriented goals [4]. There is no concern for the well-being of the horses. When animals are treated as capital or as an opportunity for free labour, it raises concerns that the profit motive will always outweigh what is in the best interest for the horse. This concern is only further exacerbated by the fact that there is no body directly dedicated to overseeing welfare standards for the organisation.

Ethical Animal Exploitation?

Even if all aforementioned concerns regarding welfare standards were erased, we must ask ourselves the question: Can you ethically exploit an animal? Cruelty towards animals used for entertainment and labour has been prevalent as long as the industries have existed. So long as we subjugate these animals for our own pleasure, we seek to treat them as lesser beings, undeserving of the freedom we value so highly in our daily lives. The Animal Justice Party believes that animals should be respected and cared for in as close to their natural state as possible. We need to take a stand against the enslavement of animals and should not seek to subjugate them for our own profit, amusement, or entertainment.

Support the Animal Justice Party in their goal to eliminate the exploitation of animals in Australia.

Donate here: https://animaljusticeparty.org/donate/.


[1] https://encountervictorharbor.com.au/business/horsedrawn-tram/


[3] https://www.victorharbortimes.com.au/story/3325578/opinion-lessons-must-be-learnt-for-the-sake-of-the-horses/


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