New animation launches our #StopHorseSmuggling campaign

Ahead of MARS Badminton Horse Trials this week, we have released an emotive animation to kick start our horse smuggling campaign ‘#StopHorseSmuggling’

Posted on 07/05/2024

New animation launches our #StopHorseSmuggling campaign

The emotive film tells the story of Rosie, a much-loved children’s pony who falls into the hands of smugglers. It highlights how those involved in the illegal trade in horses have little to no regard for their welfare and are able to cover their tracks and get away with their crimes. 

Jessica Stark, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, says: “Not all horses are as well-treated as those competing at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, as many British horses continue to be illegally smuggled in and out of the UK each year.

“Many people may be aware of puppy smuggling and the welfare implications associated with it, but it happens to horses too. Our campaign aims to raise awareness of this sobering issue which sees horses transported to and from the UK in horrendous conditions, deprived of food and water and suffer long journeys with no opportunity to rest. The horses caught up in this illegal trade can also experience rough handling and mistreatment, as well as being at high risk of disease. Some may be bound for slaughter but for the vast majority their fate is unknown and could be much worse. 

“The animation forms the first part of our #StopHorseSmuggling campaign and will be used alongside interactive public engagement activities at our Badminton event stand that aim to demonstrate the need for a fully digitalised equine ID and traceability system and better enforcement.”

Visitors to Badminton Horse Trials will be invited to explore the issue of horse smuggling through an engaging and interactive experience at our stand on 94 Beaufort Way. Our main activity is a “Find the Smuggled Ponies” scavenger hunt, which will send participants around exhibitor stands within the Shopping Village to find four ‘smuggled’ ponies and identify them on a passport. Within the stand itself, visitors can scan a microchipped pony and work out which of three passports matches its description, and have a go at matching foal pictures with a range of photos of them as adults to highlight how they can change dramatically as they grow.

The animation and all the public engagement materials have been put together using knowledge from over 15 years of investigations and research carried out by our charity. We have also drawn from a recent case study known as the ‘Dover 26’, where a consignment of horses was abandoned at a Kent holding yard when authorities discovered they were being smuggled out of the UK. The mixed load of 26 frightened and vulnerable animals had been crammed onto a transporter to be exported, possibly from Ireland, through Britain and believed to be heading to slaughter in Europe. Many of the horses were unfit for the journey, with pregnant mares, unhandled youngsters and a severely arthritic mare who required euthanasia. The remaining horses are now being cared for by our team at Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk.

We will continue to push for stricter regulations and enforcement, especially in light of the progressing Animal Welfare (Live Exports) Bill in the UK Government. And the case of the Dover 26 underscores the urgent need for robust secondary legislation to ensure the enforcement of bans on live exports for slaughter.

Read about our Horse Smuggling campaign and watch the animation, Stop Horse Smuggling: Rosie’s story.

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