Glee star Lea Michele who got her start in one New York tradition — Broadway — is taking on another New York tradition, horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. Michele has signed on with PETA to campaign against the tourist attraction.

PETA, short for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, believes horses are abused as the pull the carriages along traffic choked city streets where they are exposed to cars and auto exhaust. But the real problem is where they are stabled.

Michele is one of the celebrity faces of the ad campaign, which includes posters and a video. The theme: “Help put horse-drawn carriages out to pasture.”
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“Imagine for a moment that you’re forced to do hard physical labor all day, seven days a week — whether it’s sweltering hot or freezing cold outside,” Michele says.

“At the end of the day, instead of relaxing on [an] easy chair or sleeping in a comfortable bed, you are locked in a tiny closet all night long.”
To get to their stables, the horses must walk through traffic and climb up steep ramps to reach the upper floors of the multi-story stables in midtown Manhattan, Michele says.

Horses have been hit by cars in the past, and occasionally they will be startled by traffic and bolt, injuring themselves and pedestrians.

Most of the time, however, the carriages take tourists for rides through the sprawling park. They typically charge $40 for a half-hour.

When not in use, the horses and carriages are parked around 5th Ave on the southeast corner of the park.

The carriages have been targeted by animal rights activists for some time now, but the city is reluctant to end the practice because of its attraction to tourists and because it provides jobs.

The Health Department was taken to task in 2007 for failing to monitor health hazards faced by the horses, and the city council passed a bill setting minimum standards for stall size. The bill also mandated a five-week rest period per year for each horse, including time in a pasture.

Michele is a native New Yorker, who was born in the Bronx and acted as a child in such Tony winning Broadway productions as Spring Awakening and Les Misérables.