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Judith Römhild-Raviart and Clare Weeden Title : Guilty pleasure or moral hypocrisy? Tourist horse carriage rides in New York City

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11:00 AM, Monday 21 Jun 2021 (30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Guilty pleasure or moral hypocrisy? Tourist horse carriage rides in New York City


Judith Römhild-Raviart


Clare Weeden

Research indicates that people are motivated to appear moral to feel good about themselves but also to signal morality in order to avoid social sanctions (Batson, 2008). Nevertheless, in some situations people actively ignore any moral misgivings and fully embrace self-interest goals (Lindenberg et al., 2018). In tourism, this has been interpreted as a form of ‘guilty pleasure’ (see Ziegler et al., 2018), or eco-hypocrisy (see Mkono, 2020) and is particularly germane to animal-based experiences,where tourists’ hedonic goals (e.g. to enjoy the animal attraction) often override the need to act according to their normative moral goals (e.g. to consider the animals’ welfare). In order to explore such inconsistencies, we consider the example of horse carriage rides, specifically those in New York’s Central Park.New York City’s horse carriage industry came under particular scrutiny in early 2020, when a video involving a carriage horse went viral on social media. The 15-minute clip showed the repeated collapsing of a carriage horse named Aisha by the side of the road. Some hours later, Aisha was euthanised. The video was picked up by many news outlets across the globe, and the public outcry it caused prompted discussion on social media about the ethicality of carriage rides as an acceptable tourist activity. Our study examines comments and reviews posted on TripAdvisor after the incident on 29 February 2020. A keyword search was conducted, using various combinations such as “horse carriage rides New York City”, “Aisha carriage horse”, “death of carriage horse”, “carriage rides NY”, or “horse and NYC.” All posts were read online and then copied into a word file for thematic analysis. Once analysed, it is hoped the data will provide further understanding of the challenges facing tourists in reconciling their hedonic goals with moral norms and thus offer animal welfare advocates a useful insight into the continued attraction of animal based tourism experiences.


Batson, C. D. (2008), “Moral masquerades: Experimental exploration of the nature of moral motivation. Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences, 7(1), pp.51-66.

Lindenberg, S., Steg, L., Milovanovic, M., Schipper, A. (2018), “Moral hypocrisy and the hedonic shift: A goal-framing approach.” Rationality and Society, 30(4), pp. 393-419.

Mkono, M. (2020), “Eco-hypocrisy and inauthenticity: Criticism and confessions of eco-conscious tourist/traveller.” Annals of Tourism Research, 84, pp. 1-11.

Ziegler, J. A., Silberg, J.N., Araujo, G., Labaja, J., Ponzo, A. (2018), „A guilty pleasure: Tourist perspectives on the ethics of feeding whale sharks in Oslob, Philippines.” Tourism Management, 68, pp.264-274.

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