The British Equestrian Trade Association is concerned that some businesses are being incorrectly targeted by enforcement officers when the government’s guidelines do not require these companies to stop operating. H&H finds out more...
Concerns have been raised that equestrian businesses may think they have to stop trading during the coronavirus pandemic, when this may not be the case.
In its guidance, the government has stated that “during this time of unprecedented disruption, the UK government is not asking all businesses to shut – indeed it is important for business to carry on”, adding: “Only some non-essential shops and public venues have been asked to close.”
The guidelines also state that going to work is an acceptable reason for people to leave the house during lockdown, if they cannot work from home.
British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) executive director Claire Williams said she has become concerned about the “disconnect” between government guidelines and enforcement of the legislation.
“It’s important people understand the guidelines,” she told H&H. “I had a member on the phone who’s a wholesaler, supplying to shops and mail-order companies that are still open, and he’d just had a policeman on the premises telling him he shouldn’t be trading, and should shut down. That’s not right.”
Ms Williams took up the case, pointing out to the relevant chief constable that there is “no such thing as an essential business”, and secured agreement that the wholesaler could operate.
“There are key workers, such as those in the NHS, although it also includes people working in other key businesses such as transport and animal feed, and that just means they have the right for their children to go to school where places are available,” she said.
“Then there are public-facing businesses that must remain closed like restaurants and many retailers. Equestrian retailers can open because they fall into the agricultural supplies or pet shops category which are exceptions, supplying essential products such as feed and bedding for horses and other animals including pets.”
Ms Williams added that the idea of “essential” purchases is also misunderstood, and while retailers have told her they have stopped fitting hats, for example, to avoid the close contact with customers, there is no reason someone buying feed cannot also buy items such as brushes or clothing at the same time, while taking government-recommended precautions to minimise contact.
“People are trying to do the right thing but in doing that, they may be misunderstanding the guidelines,” she said. “Of course, some may not want or be able to stay open, because of personal reasons or staffing issues and that’s absolutely right too.”
Bobby Taak of Gallop Equestrian, the Tipton-based wholesaler asked to close by police this month, told H&H he had been aware of police spot-checks in the area before officers visited.
“I was at home but saw them arrive on camera, and I rang the team to say there was nothing to worry about; let them in and explain we’re following the social distancing guidelines,” he said.
When an officer said the business had to close, Mr Taak explained why this was not the case, but to no avail. Fortunately, Mr Taak secured permission to open the next day for a scheduled delivery, and by that time, thanks to Ms Williams’ efforts, was given the nod to stay open.
“Without Claire’s intervention, I don’t think we’d still be trading,” he said. “I appreciate the police officer was just doing his job, but we weren’t doing anything wrong.
“The shops are allowed to be open, and how can they function without people like us supplying them? I had no intention to furlough anyone; if I’d had to, it would have put more pressure on the government.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the police, they do a fantastic job, but they need to be aware of what the guidelines mean.”
- H&H contacted West Midlands Police for comment.
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