England's equine sector has today welcomed the publication of forward-thinking proposals that throw out previous plans to create a costly 'animal health' quango and charge horse owners a yearly disease control tax on every one of the million-plus horses in the country.
Instead the equine industry will be at the heart of a new partnership approach with Government, set to transform how decisions on animal disease and welfare are taken.
The British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), chaired by British Horseracing Authority (BHA) (and comprising the BHA, British Equestrian Federation, Thoroughbred Breeders Association, British Horse Society, British Equine Veterinary Association and British Equestrian Trade Association), has been at the forefront of the development of the proposals.
Set out in a report published today by the Advisory Group on Responsibility and Cost Sharing, the proposals include plans to establish a unique new 'England Partnership Board' within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). If implemented by Ministers, the new Board would see responsibility for decisions on animal health and welfare fully shared between Government, industry and animal owners.
Whilst giving its firm backing to the recommendations, the BHIC has called on Defra Ministers to ensure that the equine sector, which has a combined economic impact of £7bn (50% of which derives from racing), is well represented on the new Board.
The horse equine sector strongly opposed the original proposals for a 'Horse Tax' on the grounds that it would have raised costs, produced no benefits, and failed to recognise what was already being done. Today's report makes it clear that the Advisory Group has rejected this option, proposing instead a solution that will see industry and Government working together in genuine partnership to develop a system of fair and efficient cost sharing.
Professor Tim Morris, Chair of the BHIC, said:
"We all know that disease is a constant risk to horses. But a hugely expensive and bureaucratic 'animal health' quango and a tax on every horse owner was not the way to reduce those risks.
"Through the BHIC the whole equine sector came together and worked as one voice to both oppose the original untenable proposals and come up with constructive alternatives. Indeed, the ideas for a small Board within Government, better use of insurance and a review of compensation were all championed by the sector.
"We're confident that the proposals set out today represent the best way forward on Responsibility and Cost Sharing and the sector looks forward to continuing to engage with Ministers on vitally important issues such as the spread of equine disease."
Rosemary Radcliffe, the chair of the RCS Advisory Group said:
"The very diverse equine sector, with good leadership and a willingness to work together, engaged very constructively in these important discussions. Such a cooperative approach bodes well for the partnership which we are proposing as the way forward."