Horse owners are being encouraged to attend a series of “roadshows” across England to find out more about Defra’s proposals for a new independent body for animal health.

The public meetings (details listed below) form part of the government’s consultation on plans for the body that will be responsible for animal health policy across England.

It’s important that anyone who can goes to one,” urged Andrew Finding, chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF).

“And then we, together with the British Horse Industry Confederation and Horse & Hound will put together our own consultation for horse owners.”

But although Defra wants “as many people as possible” to attend one of the 13 meetings between 14 May and 9 June — which it says are of particular relevance to horse owners — details of the events were not released to the press.

Nor are the proposals for the horse industry complete.

Though horses are to be included in the scheme, Defra admits: “No assessment has yet been made of the potential benefits from the reduction in the risk and costs of exotic diseases affecting horses.”

Despite this, the consultation asks whether horse owners should be charged a so-called “horse tax”. If they are, the suggested figure of £10.50 is significantly higher than that estimated for other animals, which range from 4p for poultry to £4.80 for dairy cows.

Mark Weston, director of welfare at the British Horse Society said: “It seems odd to ask the horse industry to agree to something when we don’t have the necessary information.”

If you would like to attend any of the meetings listed below, call Defra on 020 7238 4953 to register.

  • 14 May, Lewtrenchard Manor, Okehampton, 2-4.30pm
  • 15 May, Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, 11am-1.30pm
  • 19 May, Boys Hall, Ashford, 2-4.30pm
  • 20 May, Old Bank Hotel, Oxford, 2-4.30pm
  • 21 May, Writtle College, Chelmsford, 2-4.30pm
  • 28 May, Livestock Market, York, 2-4.30pm
  • 29 May, Newark Showground, Newark-on-Trent, 11am-1.30pm
  • 1 June, Ecotech Centre, Swaffham, 2-4.30pm
  • 3 June, Rendevous Hotel, Skipton, 2-4.30pm
  • 4 June, Shepherds Inn, Carlisle, 2-4.30pm
  • 5 June, Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 11am-1.30pm
  • 8 June, The Four Alls Country Inn, Market Drayton, 2-4.30pm
  • 9 June, Stourport Manor Hotel, Stourport-on-Severn, 2-4.30pm