Charities (World Horse Welfare, Redwings, the RSPCA, The British Horse Society, Blue Cross and HorseWorld) have issued a warning that the UK and Wales are amidst a horse crisis with 7,000 equines at risk of abandonment and neglect due to the economic crisis, overbreeding, fly grazing, lack of enforcement and other factors.
Recently the Welsh Government has outlined the horrific impact of fly grazing on horses, communities and land owners and has vowed to take legislative action. England, however, sees no need to take action despite charities warning that these problems are now moving over the border. Read the charities’ response to the Welsh announcement.
Charities pulled together last year to produce a damning report on the scale of an emerging crisis (first released in Parliament in October) and have recently released a sobering update showing that the number of horses at risk has risen from 6,000 to 7,000 in just six months.
The report asks the government for tougher laws and the public for help as we struggle to take in the growing number of welfare cases. Case studies were used to highlight the extent of the problem, see just one example of the crisis in Kent:
In Gravesend, Kent lies an eight-mile-long field littered with abandoned and neglected horses, numbers are constantly increasing. World Horse Welfare Field Officer for Essex, Kent and East Sussex, Alana Chapman, often finds herself immersed in the goings-on there.
“There is a walking route alongside the area called Saxon Shore Way so I tend to get calls from passers-by regarding concerns for the horses and I visit there quite frequently. It is difficult because you have to walk for miles across large stretches of land to find the horses of concern as there are 100+ all running feral.”
Alana has dealt with numerous horses from the area that needed immediate care from the charity, World Horse Welfare, including having to drag horses out of deep marshland and working with vets to put individual equines to sleep at the scene due to severe suffering.
Alana describes the horrific ordeal for one mare and her dead foal:
“After walking for three miles across the vast grassland I came across this coloured mare, she was laying down. The closer I got to her the more strongly I could smell this vile smell, like a rotting stench. The poor mare looked as if she had prolapsed, but what had really happened was she had given birth to a dead foal, the foal and afterbirth were hanging out of her, just left there.
“It was a very hot day and she must have been so incredibly uncomfortable with no one to care for her. I then had to walk three miles to get the vet and again attempt to find her amongst all the other horses. Once the vet had checked her, we found that she had a broken pelvis, so we had to put her to sleep to end her suffering. This is another example of horses being left to indiscriminately breed with one another without proper care.
“The problem is that none of these equines are microchipped or passported,” continues Alana. “So there is no way to link these horses to their owners, therefore no action can be taken against owners. Fly grazing has massively increased in my area, partly due to the economic crisis but mainly due to the fact that people can get away with doing it.
“Owners can simply dump their animals on good land, with good grazing, for free and if they cannot be held accountable for their actions then why would they not put them on there? The reality is that eventually these horses will die; it is inevitable that the equines will deteriorate without proper care. Charities cannot cope with mass numbers like these that are currently all over the UK right now, in the same position. We need help to put a stop to this.”
Find out what you can to to help here.