UK equine charities issue joint statement on BBC Panorama programme – The Dark Side of Horse Racing

UK equine charities - World Horse Welfare, The BHS, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, Horse World, Redwings and the RSPCA - have released a joint statement about the BBC Panorama programme on Monday night.

"As welfare charities we were disturbed and deeply concerned by Monday’s (19/07/2021) BBC Panorama programme. It highlighted a number of issues that are not solely connected to racing, many of which the welfare charities have long been trying to bring to public and Government attention.

It showed horses being transported for slaughter over many miles, across country borders and in some cases while suffering with injuries such as severe lameness, in direct contravention of horse transport regulations. It also showed falsification of passports and failures in the equine ID and traceability system and the concerning treatment of horses in a slaughterhouse.

The racing world can help to drive improvements and we understand the British Horseracing Authority and other representatives of the industry including the Horse Welfare Board will be meeting to discuss the programme in more detail. However, we believe there are wider questions that need to be answered: why did it take undercover footage to reveal these issues when CCTV is now standard in abattoirs? Can we have faith that horses sent to abattoirs will be treated humanely? How can our ID system be shored up to prevent fraud and profiteering from these vulnerable animals at the end of their lives?

We would encourage all equine owners to make plans and provision for their own animal’s end of life care and we are calling on the Government through Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to act on promises to improve our Equine ID system – making sure the system is fit for purpose, enforceable and enforced – and ensure welfare is paramount both in horse transport and during their end-of-life care.

Please see our recent Britain’s Horse Problem Report for more detail on many of the issues raised by the programme".

The Animal Behaviour and Training Council is the regulatory body that represents animal trainers and animal behaviour therapists to both the public and legislative bodies. It is supported by Defra, the veterinary profession, major animal charities and practitioners alike.

The ABTC sets and maintains the standards of knowledge and practical skills needed to be an animal trainer or animal behaviour therapist, and it maintains national registers of appropriately qualified animal trainers and animal behaviourists.

The ABTC is the only charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of animals undergoing training or behaviour therapy. The ABTC believes that it cannot be right to cause any animal pain in order to motivate it to carry out desired behaviours when humane methods are not only available but produce better long-term results.

Find out more about the Council and its practitioners here.

The Moorland Mousie Trust is a small, local charity founded in 2000 with the aim of preventing foals from being removed from the moor and sent to the meat market. Since those early days, the work of the trust has moved on to encompass all aspects of Exmoor pony welfare.

The Trust’s primary aim is to promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor pony. Their main work focuses on providing a future for the excess foals that are removed from the moor each year during the annual pony herd gathering.

The Exmoor Pony Centre, located in the heart of the Exmoor National Park and owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, was opened to the public in 2006. The Centre, run by a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers, is the hub of all their activity with the Exmoor Ponies. It provides a permanent and specialised base for the foals when they arrive straight off the moor and is home to some 20 permanent residents.
 
Staff and volunteers work with each foal, using natural horsemanship techniques, to familiarise the youngsters with human handling, wearing a headcollar and being led. All foals in the Trust’s care are wormed and the colt foals are castrated. After completing 'foal school' the youngsters are available for rehoming with either a foster home or on a conservation grazing scheme. 

To date, the charity has helped secure the future of over 500 Exmoor ponies!

A Welsh man has been handed a suspended jail term after failing to meet the needs of 91 ponies and causing dozens of them – plus three cockerels – to suffer at his farm.

Image credit: RSPCA Cymru

Evan Lloyd Evans, of Chwilog, Pwllheli, pleaded guilty to 10 Animal Welfare Act offences and was sentenced at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 21st June.

In addition, Evans was banned from keeping horses and poultry for 20 years and ordered to pay a £1,000 fine and a £128 victim surcharge.

The prosecution followed a large multi-agency operation at Evans’ farm in September 2020, which was supported by NEWC Chair and Redwings' Head of Welfare and Behaviour, Nic de Brauwere.

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogden found dozens of horses and other animals kept in outbuildings, barns and fields in highly inappropriate conditions, with faeces everywhere – and even a bucket of dead rats!

In total Evans kept 91 ponies in illegal conditions which were unhygienic and hazardous. Sadly, three had to be put to sleep during the operation due to the extent of their suffering.

Veterinary opinion was that dozens of the horses had suffered unnecessarily, including two who had not been given appropriate care for a broken leg and lameness respectively.

Six of the ponies also required treatment for parasites, while another had a severe facial deformity which had gone unchecked.

Shockingly, 28 had not received appropriate dental care, while a further eight were judged to be suffering from lack of hoof care.

RSPCA Inspector Keith Hogden said: “We’re indebted to our partners at North Wales Police, World Horse Welfare, Redwings and the British Horse Society, who worked tirelessly with us on this huge job, which was clearly so important for the continued welfare of the animals we rescued.

“I am just relieved that following the intervention of a number of agencies, many of these will now have a second chance of forever home happiness. It is a great example of partnership working which is testimony to what can be achieved together for animal welfare.”

A rescued horse from Redwings Horse Sanctuary has found a loving new home at the farm of wildlife television presenter Kate Humble.

Kate Humble and Gilbert's new guardian, Sarah Stephens

The moment Gilbert, a handsome six-year-old cob, arrived at his new home was filmed for the latest episode of Escape to the Farm, which aired last week on Channel 5.

The series follows life on Kate’s farm, ‘Humble by Nature’, in Monmouthshire, Wales, and this episode captured Gilbert being led from the Redwings horsebox and meeting his new Guardian Sarah Stephens.

Sarah had been searching for a companion for horse Rags, who lives at Kate’s farm and who had sadly lost his stablemate. After enquiring with Redwings, the charity’s Rehoming team in Norfolk set about finding a perfect new friend for Rags.

Gilbert's mother Florence was rescued from horrific conditions as part of a large-scale rescue operation. However, as he was born following the rescue, he has never known anything other than love and care and was chosen specifically by the team for the important job of being a friend to Rags because of his calm and friendly nature.

Having arrived at his new home in April, Gilbert is settling well into his new surroundings.

Kate said: “Finding the perfect companion for a horse who has lost his stablemate of many years was not something I expected to be easy. But the knowledge and experience of the staff at Redwings helped us find Gilbert. He and our Rags struck up an instant rapport and Gilbert has become well and truly part of the farm family.

“We are so grateful for the careful consideration that Redwings gave to allow us to rehome this lovely horse and, in so doing, support the work of this excellent charity.”

Redwings has been rehoming rescued horses since 2005. Due to Covid safety measures, the charity is currently rehoming just non-ridden companion ponies and unbacked project horses - the latter receive basic training but are suitable to be trained to be ridden by experienced Guardians once in their new home.

Despite the changes, Redwings experienced its most successful rehoming year ever in 2020 and recently rehomed its 100th pony since the onset of the pandemic.

Rachel Angell, Redwings’ Head of Norfolk Equine Operations and Rehoming, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that Gilbert is enjoying his new home – and has become a television star to boot! Thank you to Kate and Sarah for highlighting the sheer joy of rehoming a rescued horse and the importance of companion ponies.

“Companions not only provide invaluable friendship for another horse, but they can also act as calming travel buddies or can simply be wonderful pets in their own right. When you rehome from a registered charity like Redwings, you’re not only giving a second start in life to a rescued horse but you’re also providing space at the Sanctuary for another horse in need to be brought to safety.

“We wish Gilbert, Rags, Sarah and Kate many happy years together!”

Episodes of Escape to the Farm are available to watch on My5 at www.channel5.com.

To find out more about Redwings’ rehoming scheme, visit redwings.org.uk/rehoming.

If you and your family have decided you’d like to give a home to a horse or pony from Blue Cross, please have a look on their rehoming pages to see horses currently available for loan or potentially to own.

Blue Cross have a range of horses available for rehoming; from miniature Shetlands to cobs to thoroughbreds. They have companions and ridden horses and ponies, both backed and unbacked, and a range of ages from foals to veteran.

Blue Cross rehomes horses on a monitored loan, which means they check in to see how they’re doing from time to time to make sure that they – and you – are happy.

It is possible to transfer the ownership of Blue Cross horses and ponies after a successful loan period. This enables even more homeless horses needing help to be taken in.

Blue Cross are also always in need of support yards, preferably located within an hour’s drive of their centres, where horses are provided with temporary care and support on a private yard until a suitable permanent home is found. If you are interested in becoming a support yard rather than loaning a horse please visit their volunteering pages for further details.

We are thrilled to announce that Hopton Rehab and Homing Centre (HRH) has joined NEWC as new members.

Established in July 2017, HRH has dealt with a variety of equines needing extensive physical and behavioural rehabilitation. Their team of Trustees - all of whom are experienced in the equine industry and share a passion for horse welfare and rehabilitation - has built a great reputation for a sympathetic approach that allows horses and ponies to adjust and develop in their own time, before being carefully matched with prospective new homes.

Find out more about their work here: hoptonrehabhoming.org

NEWC is delighted to welcome Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT) as a new member of NEWC. The DPHT is a registered charity, established in 2005, working tirelessly to secure the future of the native Dartmoor Pony while inspiring and connecting people with Dartmoor’s wildlife, landscape and heritage.

The central tenet of DPHT’s work is to deliver innovative education and conservation opportunities so young people and adults can learn more about the plight of the Moorland Pony, their crucial role in its ecology and role in mankind’s place on the landscape.

They work closely with conservation bodies like the National Trust and local Wildlife Trusts to place ponies for conservation grazing, and with other stakeholders and pony-keepers to ensure their involvement in conserving the Dartmoor Pony.

The DPHT's bespoke visitor and education centre at Parke Estate is open to the public on selected days throughout the year.

Find out more about their work here: dpht.co.uk

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