Carriage drivers formed an association last year. | Miquel À. Cañellas


In Palma, there are 28 horse carriages. Fifteen of them are based by the Cathedral, eight on Calle Conqueridor and five in Arenal. This is how the numbers would normally be distributed, but there are fewer in Arenal because of the lack of tourists.

Rafael Suárez is one of just a few drivers at the Cathedral who is willing to give his name. Another in the group says: "We don't want to give out names because they go looking for us on social media in order to insult and threaten us."

Suárez explains that the absence of British tourists is affecting them greatly. "We get no help from anyone. We've been doing virtually nothing for fifteen months. Neither the town hall nor the animal-rights people have been concerned about how the horses are. We pay for everything out of our own pocket. The horses are in a good condition. The animal-rights people only know how to complain and report. They are inciting hatred. They mistreat us. It's a campaign of harassment and destruction. It's not nice to have to say it, but it's because of racism; that's the conclusion."

Another driver, Antonio Suárez, says that "we prevent the deaths of the horses". "Bear in mind that they come from the racetrack. If it weren't for us, when they're no good for racing, they would end up in the slaughterhouse to make dog food. With us they have food, insurance, examinations. Of some 200, we have saved 20 or 30."

Venancio Vargas explains that the season is going badly. "We have always worked with the cruise passengers. When they come for a couple of hours, they take the longest trip so as to see the most important sights. Since Easter, our customers have mainly been Mallorcan. We have felt great support. If it weren't for them, there would be days when we make nothing. On June 17, I will be making an appearance before the Council of Mallorca to call for the horse carriages to be declared an asset in the cultural interest."

His father Manuel, who has been a carriage owner for 34 years, says that "we have always been able to practise freely". "Things have now got pretty bad. We don't have that freedom. The animal-rights people belong to a political group; it's a vicious circle. And now, what with Covid and the lack of British tourists, we have between 80 and 90 per cent less business. It's remarkable that we are able to keep going."

The town hall's view is that the carriages are not transport for the twenty-first century. The mobility department has been looking to rescind the licences, but the cost would be high, and the town hall says that it has other priorities right now. The Consultative Council, the body which advises public authorities on legal matters, has informed the town hall that among rights that licence-holders have is one that allows these licences to be inherited. It would therefore be difficult to take them away, unless they were given up willingly.