Representives of the horse industry met Defra on 24 June to discuss the government’s proposals for horse owners to pay a levy fund for a new body to administer animal health policy.

But the incomplete state of the consultation document on which the industry has been asked to comment has caused major concern, particularly among those who attended Defra’s “consultation roadshows” over the past six weeks (news, 28 May).

Wednesday’s meeting was, according to Defra, one of a number of “pre-consultation response” meetings the government is hosting with the different livestock sectors.

“The principal aim is to clarify any specific issues or points of misunderstanding to allow organisations to maximise their consultation responses,” said a Defra spokesman.

But Jan Rogers, head of equine development at the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), has been working with Mark Weston, director of welfare for the British Horse Society (BHS), and Tim Morris, chairman of the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), to collate views from BEF member bodies and other groups within the equine sector prior to the meeting.

“We prepared a document which will hopefully correct inaccuracies and fill in the blanks within the consultation papers,” she said.

The three-month consultation on the animal health body will finish on 30 June, and Defra has no plans to extend the deadline.

A Defra spokesman said: “We will continue an ongoing dialogue with the equine sector to deal with specific points. We expect initial responses to deal in detail with the more principled elements of the proposals, ie should we establish an independent body for animal health and should equine owners contribute towards the levy?”

The BEF and BHIC would like to hear horse owners’ views on Defra’s proposals.

  • To have your say, fill in a short survey at www.horseandhound.co.uk/horsetax. To complete the document, you will have to register on the H&H forum, but registration is free.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (25 June, ’09)