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Keeping horses alive not necessarily good welfare – official

The horses in Bolton were treated for mange and other infections.

The view that keeping horses alive represents good welfare has been challenged by a senior British Horse Society figure, as Britain continues to face equine challenges.

Its director of equine policy, Lee Hackett, has offered insights into the crisis affecting Britain’s horse population in the latest issue of the society’s magazine.

Hackett urges people to face up to the realities of the current situation.

With so many unwanted horses roaming Britain, horse lovers are inevitably tempted to try to take matters into their own hands. However, Lee advises horse owners to think twice before rushing to the “rescue” and suggests that a more pragmatic approach may be necessary.

Space within rescue centres in Britain is limited and under severe pressure as the number of horses coming into centres continues to rise.

Space within rescue centres in Britain is limited and under severe pressure as the number of horses coming into centres continues to rise.

“Let’s lose the view that good welfare always means keeping animals alive,” Hackett says.

“We can’t afford to think like this any longer. Finding a horse a new purpose or new home so we can avoid putting them down really is not always the best solution.

“Humane euthanasia is far from the worst fate that can befall a horse. Just ask any one of The British Horse Society’s 200-plus welfare officers who are constantly on call to help horses suffering and in distress.”

The society is also launching its new grass sickness campaign in the latest issue, in conjunction with the Equine Grass Sickness Fund and the Animal Health Trust.

The aim is to raise money for a full clinical trial of a new vaccine that could mean the end of the devastating equine disease.

The Animal Health Trust has already conducted a successful pilot study, which is a major breakthrough. The next stage is a full-size clinical trial of the potential vaccine.

“Grass sickness causes huge suffering to the horses it affects and the people who care for them,” Hackett says.

“At the moment we have no real means of treating or preventing it and while the status quo remains horses will continue to die.

“However, there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the prospect of a vaccine. The British Horse Society is the organisation for people who love horses and we are delighted to be teaming up with the Equine Grass Sickness Fund and the Animal Health Trust to launch this appeal.

“Raising the money needed to fund the vaccine trial might just enable us to defeat this horrific disease once and for all.”

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Comments (3)

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  1. Dr. Gimenez, Rebecca says:

    Thank you for a great article. We have so many “I love animals so much I want to keep them alive no matter what” here in the USA – thank you for having the guts to stand up and tell the truth. People have a crippled lame or laminitic horse struggling in their yard and call it a “pet” – keeping it alive is often not humane – especially since these are typically the animals that are not receiving regular dental, farrier and veterinary care. But they “LOVE” it so much…. ugh. Thank you again for saying it.

    • Dr Amy Little says:

      Here here, excellent article. “Humane euthanasia is far from the worst fate that can befall a horse” truer words never spoken. We have the same issue here in Australia with individuals taking it upon themselves to ‘rescue’ horses which many of us feel are better being put out of their misery. As Rebecca says, thank youy for having the guts to publish a realistic article that addresses a difficult truth. The real issue in society is that animal owners needs to be better educated about the responsibilities and complexities of animal ownership and to be held accountable when they fail in their obligations.

  2. Eliabeth Llewelyn says:

    Feeling in a bit disappointed with BHS lately and fed up with their calls for more abattoirs in the UK. The charity’s latest publication apparently included an advert from a butcher…loss of trust for me

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