Bill Targeting Illegal Fly Grazing in England Introduced

Bill Targeting Illegal Fly Grazing in England Introduced

Welfare charities estimate that in England alone there are at least 3,000 horses fly grazing.

Photo: World Horse Welfare

Equine welfare charities and countryside organizations in England welcome the move for Parliament to debate solutions to the illegal fly grazing of horses through a private members bill, which was launched in the House of Commons July 15.

Fly grazing is the practice of leaving a horse to graze on a piece of private or public land without the permission of the owner or local authorities.

The bill was introduced by Julian Sturdy, MP, for York Outer, who has worked with local groups to help address this growing problem. Welfare charities estimate that in England alone there are at least 3,000 horses fly grazing.

The Country Land and Business Association, National Farmers’ Union, and Countryside Alliance have joined forces with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (RSPCA), World Horse Welfare, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, the British Horse Society, and Blue Cross to support the bill after they supported similar legislation in Wales which became law in January.

Fly grazing has proliferated since the economic downturn, causing welfare problems for horses, damage to crops and fencing, loss of land use, and risks to the public. However, resolving these issues is normally a lengthy and costly process, due to the inadequacy of existing legislation to tackle the problem and the fact that many of the owners of these horses do not comply with equine identification laws, meaning they are not held accountable for their actions.

The bill comes as welcome news at a time when a horse crisis is gripping the country, and farmers and other landowners are struggling to remove horses placed on their land without permission. For instance, the RSPCA alone has more than 800 horses in its care and receives about 500 complaints relating to horse welfare every week. Similarly, World Horse Welfare rescued 76% more horses last year compared to 2012.

“It is now time for effective laws with real teeth that impose significant consequences on irresponsible owners by allowing authorities to immediately seize the horses they leave on others’ land without permission," said World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers. "Not only will this enable quicker, cheaper resolution of these cases, it will serve as a strong deterrent and help to protect horse welfare.”

Added RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles, “We have been fighting for several years now for the government to introduce legislation to help tackle the horse crisis. This bill provides the government with the opportunity to help local authorities, landowners, and animal welfare organisations to tackle the fly grazing problem. It is now up to the government to decide if they want to help enforcement of this problem or continue to bury their head in the sand. Horse owners need to be made accountable for their own animals and power needs to be given back to enforcers and land owners to tackle this problem.”

Lee Hackett, director of equine policy at the British Horse Society said, “For a very long time now, The British Horse Society has been working with our fellow charities to make Westminster aware of just how serious the horse crisis affecting Britain is. There are literally thousands of horses out there in desperate need of help and yet the existing legislation has not allowed us to assist as quickly and effectively as the horses desperately need us to.

“It is simply not fit for purpose," he continued. "Additionally the costs to landowners who are affected by fly grazing can be enormous and they are victims just like the horses. We are delighted that Julian Sturdy has introduced this bill and we hope that government will finally realize just how important it is to introduce new legislation to deal with a problem that should not be happening in 21st Century Britain. To fail to legislate and continue to allow horses to suffer unnecessarily is just not acceptable in a nation that prides itself as one of animal lovers.”

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