Is the over-breeding message finally beginning to get through?

Over the past week I have seen comments, features and images in various media which — hopefully — will start to spread the message further than the small pool of the already converted.

While the British Horse Society’s castration campaign “This is Bill” stickman, circulating on Facebook, has literally had some stick, at least it got people talking.

Meanwhile heartfelt Facebook posts from American Kelly Smith, who seems to work at an equine rescue centre in Pennsylvania and spends much of her life at the “kill pen”, are currently going viral.

Kelly’s anguish as she pleads for all of us to think before we breed, while she tackles the reality of what most of us prefer to not to think about, comes across big time. She doesn’t just see unwanted piebalds, but superfluous young riding horses and ponies that have been brought into the world, in the main through ignorance, with no life ahead of them. A brave lady. If you haven’t already seen her posts, read them and look at the pictures.

At the end of their tether

It was also good that the problem of fly-grazing was tackled on Countryfile, albeit raising as many questions as it answered. I take my hat off to those who go round monitoring these horses, especially if they are often confronted by angry men wearing balaclavas.

Why are people allowed in public with their faces covered, let alone speaking to a TV camera while brandishing a mallet?

What I wanted to know was why these people are keeping horses, if they have nowhere to keep them. This was never really ascertained apart from speaking to one man who “loved his horse”.

I am not doubting that, but I do wonder what the horse got out of his tethered life. No one mentioned riding them even.

Living on the end of a rope in a public playing field is no existence for a horse. Yes horses have lived on the end of tethers for years, but in former times they spent the day working, so at least had exercise. No horse should be standing around all day waiting — for what? A daily pat?

What happened to the “Five Freedoms of animal welfare”? Number two: provision of an appropriate environment, including shelter; and number four: the freedom to express normal behaviour.

Public spaces are not renowned for their hedges, and how can a horse behave normally on a tether?

The programme concluded that the cost of liberating these horses was too high for most councils and that most of them, if rescued, would go to the abattoir anyway, leaving the viewer to believe that perhaps they are best left alone.

Surely these horses are alive only because they are meat money, and that is why the vast majority of them have been allowed to breed in the first place?

The fly-grazing act that came into being last May is helping landowners to remove dumped horses, and so is a deterrent to those looking for free grass and space. However, if we tolerate grazing in public spaces because the only option is slaughter, aren’t we just pushing the problem elsewhere?

No one wants horses to go to slaughter before they have had a proper and hopefully long life, but as long as the world has a surplus of horses, this will be the end for many. Now if you haven’t already, go and look up Kelly Smith.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 February 2016