IT is more than a year since the Control of Horses Act came into force, and the latest figures show an encouraging reduction in the numbers of horses fly-grazed across England and Wales.
Many case studies prove its effectiveness at tackling a problem which has been a cause of significant horse welfare problems, and blighted local communities, for years.
The most recent statistics show that there are estimated to be 3,000 – 3,500 horses currently fly-grazed across England and Wales, the same number as were estimated to be fly-grazed in England alone in 2014.
This is strong evidence that the Act is having a real impact, providing another vital tool in tackling the welfare problems facing the UK’s horses. However, the coalition of welfare and rural organisations which campaigned for the Act (including Blue Cross, British Horse Society, CLA, Countryside Alliance, HorseWorld, NFU, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, RSPCA and World Horse Welfare) want to highlight the important role that awareness plays in ensuring the Act is used to its full potential.
Where the Act is being used it has been effective not only in enabling the swift removal of both large and small groups of fly-grazed horses – safeguarding their welfare and the surrounding local communities – but also, by taking robust action, locations which have previously experienced recurrent problems with fly-grazing have been able to eradicate the practice.
In contrast, areas where the new law is not being used are now seeing more fly-grazed horses, perhaps due to the fact that owners can be assured they will face no consequences as a result.
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 so it is encouraging to see positive results reported in the fourteen months since the Control of Horses Act came into force.
“We do believe, 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.”
He added:“Landowners and local authorities are the only ones with powers under the Act and they have a responsibility to use it as one of the tools available in helping to further reduce the still large numbers of fly-grazed horses across the country.
“This appalling practice will simply continue and even worse, increase, if there are no consequences for these irresponsible horse owners who put their horses’ welfare at risk by leaving them to fend for themselves on someone else’s land.”