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Equine welfare groups call for hot branding ban

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Equine welfare groups are making further calls to ban hot branding after a report commissioned by the RSPCA confirmed the procedure causes “significant pain”.

Last year, the charity commissioned equine welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy to write an independent report into the hot branding and microchipping of horses and ponies.

Dr Kennedy, from Anglia Ruskin University, concluded hot branding should end as it is “painful and unnecessary” and there are “effective alternatives, like microchipping, that cause less suffering”.

But farmers and moorland pony owners have long argued microchipping is impractical for them as they need a visible form of identification for their free-roaming ponies.

The report was based on observation of moorland ponies being hot branded and microchipped, as well as consultation with owners and vets.

The RSPCA has since updated its recommendations, advising owners to microchip.
But a spokesman told H&H the charity has no plans as yet to lobby the government to change the legislation.

Some animal welfare groups claim this doesn’t go far enough.

Deborah Mallender, from the British Society for the Abolition of Cruel Methods of Identification of Equines, said: “It’s a positive step but we need to push forward. Hot branding absolutely should be abolished. Now it’s there in black and white that it’s cruel, we are in a stronger position.”

And Paul King from People 4 Ponies, with whom Dr Kennedy spent a day while compiling the report, agreed.

“It’s a good start, but it’s still legal. The RSPCA need to lobby. If they don’t it’s not good enough,” he said.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (15 September, 2011)