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The British horse industry has welcomed government plans to involve the equine and farming industries in making health and welfare policy.

But the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC) has said the equestrian sector must have a voice on the panel.

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice announced today (Tuesday 26 April) that Defra is creating a new Animal Health and Welfare Board for England.

It will bring together farmers, veterinarians and welfare experts, with the chief veterinary officer and civil servants to make policy for all kept animals such as farm animals, horses and pets.

Mr Paice said: “This is a completely new way of working. It replaces the old ways, where the people most affected by decisions were kept at arm’s length from policy making on those subjects.

“We’ve already seen the success of a partnership between farmers and the Government with the work that’s been done on bluetongue — which has seen the disease virtually eradicated in this country.”

Final decisions on animal health and welfare policy will remain in the hands of government ministers.

The board will be made up of around 12 members, five from Defra, including the chief veterinary officer, and seven or eight external members including the chair.

BHIC chairman, Jan Rogers, said: “The [equine] sector has already shown that it can work together to engage constructively with these important issues, and played a very active role in the advisory group discussions.

This must continue if all sectors involved, and the public at large, are to benefit from the work of the new board.”

And Professor Tim Morris, who represented the equine sector on the Independent Responsibility and Cost Sharing Advisory Group, said: “In order to effectively meet the challenges of preventing and managing animal disease in the future it’s absolutely vital that the board includes at least one member with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the horse sector, which in many ways is in a unique position.”