An MP is to exercise his right to ride a horse into Parliament for the first time since the beginning of the last century as a sign of his support for the Say NO to Live Exports campaign run by International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH).

James Gray, the Conservative member for North Wiltshire, will ride his horse through Carriage Gates into Parliament at 1.30pm tomorrow (Wednesday). His main aim is to highlight a Westminster Hall debate, which takes place tomorrow afternoon and deals with rising concerns over the resumption of the live export of British horses and ponies for slaughter to European abattoirs.

“Debates can disappear into obscurity. I felt that it was very important to focus attention on this one, and so I mentioned to the ILPH that I would be delighted to be involved in such a stunt,” explains Mr Gray.

This morning, the European Parliament effectively concluded that the UK should be allowed an opt-out of the new regulations on moral grounds, but stressed that for any such opt-out to be put in place, the British government needs to show its commitment. The purpose of tomorrow’s debate will be to pressurise the government into acting.

ILPH campaigns manager, Jo White, explains the necessity for action: “The EU draft Regulation on the Protection of Animals during Transport is due to be considered by the council of Agricultural Ministers at the end of April.

“We are extremely concerned, as it contains no provisions to protect our horses and ponies from the live export for slaughter trade from which they have been protected for nearly 70 years.”

Although the government has suggested that the new draft Regulations will protect horses in the UK, Jo believes that the proposals are likely, if anything, to make the situation worse. Support in Brussels has been forthcoming, but support in Westminster is vital.

“The [European] Commission have stated that they would look at an opt-out for the UK if the Government proposed it. The European door is open, why is our government refusing to act to protect our horses?” she concludes.

The ILPH Say NO to Live Exports Campaign, launched in September 2003, has involved:

  • An on-line and paper petition which currently holds 83,410 signatures. This is expected to go to the European Parliament at the end of this month when they will be looking at the Draft Regulation on Animal Welfare
  • A letter writing campaign to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett, asking the government to protect UK horses and ponies from the resumption of live exports
  • A letter writing campaign to MPs and MEPs