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Defra has set up a working group with the farming industry to advise the government on how best to establish the body that will oversee disease responsibility and cost sharing — but it is unclear yet whether the horse industry will be represented.

The group — headed by economist and business consultant Rosemary Radcliffe — was formed after the farming industry called for a greater say in the development of animal health policy.

Representatives from Defra and the farming industry will sit on the group, but despite calls from the horse sector for a greater say in decision-making (news, 9 July), a Defra spokesman could not confirm to H&H whether the equine industry would be represented, only saying she “expects” so.

Announcing the formation of the group at the Royal Show last week, food, farming and horse minister Jim Fitzpatrick said the group will “give a voice” to the farming industry in the early stages.

“It is vital that Defra and the farming industry work together to ensure industry knowledge and experience is at the heart of disease control and eradication,” he said.

But Tim Morris, chairman of the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), said no similar approach had been made to the horse industry.

“The BHIC, on behalf of the horse sector, has already made it clear that it thinks the proposals for both the new body and a horse levy specifically should not proceed. These concerns are shared by others, such as the British Veterinary Association,” he said.

“We are surprised Defra is proceeding with implementation before considering the results of the consultation.

“We have said we are committed to dialogue with Defra, but havenot received any information on this advisory group.”

A Defra spokesman said responses from the consultation would be considered “over the next few months”.

“Ministers will make a decision in the autumn, with a view to publishing a draft bill after pre-legislative scrutiny before the end of the year,” she added.

A petition has been set up on the 10 Downing Street website calling on the Prime Minister to scrap plans for a horse tax. To add your name, visit http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ntht09/

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (16 July, ’09)