A tip-off from a member of the public led the RSPCA to the carcasses of five dead horses on farmland near Bacup, Lancashire last week. A further 18 horses, in varying states of emaciation, were also found at the site.

An extensive rescue operation involving the RSPCA, the International League for the Protection of Horse (ILPH) and the Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) was immediately initiated.

Chris Williamson, an ILPH field officer involved in the case, told HHO: “It was horrific to see dead horses in varying states of decomposition, while other emaciated creatures walked around among the carcasses.”

All 18 live horses were removed from the scene and taken for assessment and rehabilitation to the ILPH’s Penny Farm centre, near Peel. It not currently possible to say what the cause of death in the other five had been.

The horses taken to Penny Farm are a mixture of mares, foals and stallions of various ages. Some of the mares are believed to be in foal and most have a body condition score of only one or two out of five. All of horses are undergoing routine tests to establish their general state of health.

Lancashire Police spokesman told HHO: “A 67-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident. He has been released on bail pending further inquiries. As the investigation is still in progress, we cannot provide any further information.”