Monday, 01 September 2014 13:11

Call to end fly-grazing 'scourge'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Call to end fly-grazing 'scourge'

RURAL leaders have called on the government to help prevent the illegal grazing of horses in the countryside.

More and more horses are being left on someone else's land without permission – causing problems for local councils, says a report backed by a consortium of nine organisations.

More than 3,000 horses are being fly-grazed causing "misery for horses, landowners, animal welfare organisations and local authorities," says the document.

The report was launched by the Country Land and Business Association with several major charities and groups including the NFU, Countryside Alliance and the RSPCA.

It comes ahead of a parliamentary committee discussion on the issue.

Called 'Stop the scourge - time to address unlawful fly-grazing in England, the document calls for updated legislation to tackle unlawfully grazed horses in England.

It says this would enable local authorities and landowners to take swift and cost-effective action to deal with fly-grazing horses, and act as a better deterrent.

Particular fly-grazing 'hot spots' have grown in the Midlands and the Thames Estuary with hundreds of animals kept on verges, parkland or farmland in the worst hit areas.

A map of 'hot spots' has been produced to illustrate the scale of the problem.

Calls to welfare charities about fly-grazing have also risen by two thirds in the past three years following concerns that horses are being abandoned.

This is the first time the charities and rural organisations have joined together on this issue and comes ahead of a Parliamentary committee discussion on fly-grazing on 3 September.

The report reveals that the horse meat scandal, the economic downturn, overbreeding and the high costs of keeping horses has created a perfect storm for horses to be abandoned.

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, said existing laws would not solve the problem.

"It is time for government to do its part to help stop the scourge of fly-grazing in our countryside, farms and urban areas," he said.

Fly-grazing in the Midlands, northern and south-east England was increasing after Wales introduced its own tougher fly-grazing laws in January this year.

"It is not sustainable to leave it to charities to deal with whilst they are at capacity with so many of the worst cases, nor continue to burden our local authorities with long-winded processes when they are already cash-strapped."

Under the current law, landowners were powerless to remove horses from their land quickly and effectively and it is often impossible to link irresponsible owners to their animals.

The report says the closure of the UK's national database of horses in 2012 impeded the effective enforcement of equine identification legislation.

Fly-grazed horses threaten the livelihood of farmers, damage land, divert local authority resources and risk the safety of motorists when they escape on to roads.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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