#ActNow4Horses: new campaign targets ‘window of opportunity’ to improve equine welfare

  • A new World Horse Welfare campaign is targeting a “window of opportunity” for better equine welfare in Scotland and Wales.

    The charity launched #ActNow4Horses this month following the countries’ parliamentary elections on 6 May. The campaign is asking for Scottish MSPs and Welsh MSs to support a number of pledges set out in five-year manifestos. Both manifestos call for improved welfare during transport, work towards full digital traceability of equines and the updating of the Riding Establishments Act.

    The Scottish manifesto also asks for consideration to the regulation of commercial equine establishments and breeders, and to ensure the success of the licensing of equine welfare establishments – which came into force on 1 September. The Welsh manifesto asks the Welsh Senedd to improve enforcement of legislation, facilitate faster rehoming of equines involved in prosecution cases, improve welfare on the commons and to consider licensing welfare establishments.

    World Horse Welfare senior public affairs officer Kim Ayling told H&H now is the “perfect opportunity” to put equine welfare on the political agenda. Equestrians are urged to contact their MPs or MSs and ask them to pledge to the manifestos.

    “As an organisation we can bring these points to the attention of politicians, but they act on the interests of their constituents,” she said.

    “It’s important to show that this is of interest to the general public and something they need to consider and act on. We will do everything we can, but we cannot do our job without the support from animal lovers.”

    Nic de Brauwere, chair of the National Equine Welfare Council and Animal Network Wales, told H&H equine welfare has been “under siege” in recent years, highlighted by the organisation’s member charities in the joint report, Britain’s Horse Problem (news, 24 December).

    “Stakeholder engagement with the devolved governments is vital to ensure equine welfare is protected or enhanced on the back of new evidence and when opportunities arise for new or amended legislation,” he said.

    “Partnership working on the front line is essential to ensure we can evidence where legal protections for equine welfare are not working, and the new World Horse Welfare campaign, directly aimed at the new governments in Scotland and Wales, is an excellent example of making sure our elected representatives are aware of the issues that our horse-loving nations want to see fixed.”

    Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon told H&H the Scottish Government takes animal welfare “extremely seriously”.

    “We are committed to ensuring the highest possible standards in Scotland. In general, we are supportive of the manifesto. I met World Horse Welfare on 1 September to continue engagement with the sector to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare,” she said.

    “Within this year’s programme for government (PfG) there is a commitment to take forward future licensing of animal services which in due course may include equine establishments. There is also a PfG commitment to consult further on specific transport proposals following our general consultation on the farm animal welfare committee’s recommendations earlier this year. The equine sector will be included in future discussions alongside other Great Britain administrations.”

    A Welsh Government spokesman told H&H the Government welcomes the manifesto and intends to publish a five-year animal welfare plan this autumn.

    “We plan to develop a national model for regulation of animal welfare and introduce registration for animal welfare establishments, commercial breeders for pets and animal exhibits,” said the spokesman.

    “We are working with the UK Government on introducing a ban on the export of livestock and equines for slaughter through the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, and to consider how the protection of animal welfare during transport can be strengthened.”

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