This week in long-running BBC Radio 4 show The Archers, the residents of Ambridge have been affected by the issue of fly grazing.
Youngster Huckleberry was the first horse taken in by a charity under the Control of Horses Act when he was rescued towards the end of 2015. He and another horse were being moved from one piece of land to another around Suffolk until they were discovered on an old rubbish dump, where sadly Huckleberry’s companion was found dead. Thanks to the Control of Horses Act, Huckleberry was able to be removed and taken into World Horse Welfare’s care where he has made a fantastic recovery.
Archers’ character Lynda Snell may have a formidable reputation, but over the years avid fans know the real Lynda is as compassionate and kind-hearted as she is forthright. So when six injured and neglected ponies were unceremoniously dumped alongside her beloved Wolfgang and Constanza earlier this week she responded with kindness and concern.
Sadly, The Archers’ storyline is a very real issue faced by vulnerable horses, communities, farmers, landowners and charities throughout the UK. Around 2,000 horses are estimated to be fly-grazed in England posing serious risks to horse welfare and often significant problems for those whose land the horses occupy without permission.
World Horse Welfare, along with a collaboration of charities, welfare and rural organisations, campaigned tirelessly for the Control of Horses Act which came into force in May 2015 and gives greater power to public and private landowners to remove horses grazed on their land without permission. Early results show that the numbers of fly-grazed horses in England have reduced since the Act was introduced but there is still more which needs to be done. World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, said:
"As a coalition we campaigned for almost three years for tougher legislation to tackle fly-grazing which blights local communities and puts thousands of horses’ lives at risk every year… however, that there is still more work to be done. Awareness of the Act, and the willingness of more local authorities and other landowners to use it are key to its success in tackling fly-grazing, which is just one driver of the UK’s current horse crisis.”
So, if you end up in Lynda’s position, what should you do?
Under the Control of Horses Act 2015, both public and private landowners can immediately detain horses left on their land and take them to a safer environment if needed. Providing the landowner notifies the police within 24 hours that they have seized the horses under the Act (and the horse owner if known), after four working days the landowner assumes ownership of the horses. (Where the horse owner is not known, it can be a good idea to post a notice by the horses saying they will be seized under the Act.) The Act provides landowners with a number of options on what to do with the horses, such as gifting them to a charity, selling them or as a last resort, humane euthanasia.
If horses appear to be abandoned or dumped and you don’t know if they have permission to be there or not, then contact the landowner as soon as possible to find out. It is then the landowner’s responsibility to enforce the Control of Horses Act. Guidance for private landowners on using the Act can be found on the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) website here.
If you have any welfare concerns for a horse or pony, whether they appear to be fly-grazing or not, then you can call World Horse Welfare’s welfare line on: 08000 480 180
Read The Archers' blog about fly-grazing here
Find out more about World Horse Welfare's campaigning against fly-grazing.