The Conservative party is inviting public comment on a consultation paper entitled Shooting, Fishing and Riding which was launched at the CLA Game Fair last week.

The paper looks at a Fair deal for horses and riding, which highlights the need for a country-wide recognition of the importance of horses to the rural way of life.

The paper suggests amongst other things that:

  • The development of bridleways should be encouraged
  • The compulsory nature of horse passports should be repealed
  • A ban on the slaughter of horses for food should be considered
  • Legislation to prevent the spread of Ragwort should be enforced
  • The British Horseracing Board and the Jockey Club should be encouraged and supported in their work to co-ordinate and govern British Racing

    Some of the more controversial issues included in the paper have already given rise to concerns among the rural and equestrian communities.

    The consultation document states that: “Ending the slaughter of horses for food at home and abroad would enable us to confirm the horse as a recreational animal, avoiding the difficulties inherent in it being considered a food producing animal.”

    But such a suggestion seems to run contrary to long-held beliefs in the horse industry. While charities such as the ILPH work hard to improve the welfare of horses for slaughter, and continue to push for a ban on the long-distance slaughter transport of live horses, such organisations have never indicated that a complete ban on the slaughter of horses for food would be in the best interests of equine welfare.

    A spokesman for the ILPH commented that they “were looking at the consultation paper, and would be offering a response in due course.”

    The limited focus on hunting has also provoked comment from some directions. This is largely because, although the Conservatives mention that they will “allow a repeal of any ban on hunting with hounds”, the paper does not address the broader issues should the current Hunting Bill not receive Royal Assent.

    A spokesman for the Tory Party stressed that the hunting issue “had been dealt with” within the Fair deal for horses and riding, and that riding was one of the most important rural issues.

    James Gray, Shadow Minister for the Countryside has also emphasised that this is “very much a blue skies Consultation Paper rather than any kind of manifesto, but will obviously form the basis of our approach to shooting, fishing and horses and riders when in Government”.

    He has asked for responses by the end of August. The paper is available from James Gray MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.