EXPERTS are urging all horse owners to take part in a government consultation over plans to introduce an annual “tax” on farm animals — possibly to include horses.

Defra is proposing to set up an independent body of animal health and industry experts to take decisions on animal health issues — for example on future outbreaks of diseases from foot-and-mouth to African horse sickness (AHS).

If it goes ahead, the scheme would start in 2012 and, if horses are included, Defra estimates each animal would cost about £10.50 per year. This sum would be in addition to current passport costs and would contribute towards dealing with exotic diseases.

A Defra spokesman was keen to stress that the plans were in very early stages, saying that although government documents state the fee “could also cover horses and their keepers” it does not mean they will definitely be included.

But she added: “The main rule of thumb remains that all keepers of disease-susceptible species should contribute to the costs of exotic disease control unless there are compelling reasons as to why they should not.”

The British Horse Society (BHS) has cautioned against any further financial burdens being placed on horse owners in the current economic climate unless there were very clear and necessarily reasons for doing so.

BHS director of welfare Mark Weston said: “I would urge all horse owners to take part in the consultation process.”

  • The consultation ends in June. Visit: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/foodfarming.htm
  • Share your views in the H&H forum or write to h&hletters@ipcmedia.com.

Read this story in full, including opinion from the Horse Trust and BEVA, in the current issue of Horse & Hound (16 April, ’09)