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Urgent request to all Orkney - respond to Animal Welfare Consultation

15 Feb 2021


For ALL Horse and Pony owners in Orkney:

PLEASE PLEASE send in a response to these consultations.

One, from DEFRA (England and Wales, but likely to be the lead), closing date February 25th

and one from the Scottish Government closing date Feb 26th

There are lots of positive suggestions to improve equine welfare coming out of both consultations and it is important that we – the horse owners from Orkney respond with our good experiences of traveling horses for business, leisure and sport.

If we don’t respond there is the potential for us to find ourselves  facing expensive changes and potential restrictions in journey times as well as challenges to gain certificates before we transport and  have to organise journey rest periods and more overnight stays away.

Without the opportunity to travel to competitions, training, shows and when needed, to specialist treatments not available on our Islands (Vet hospitals, specialist farriery and dental treatments) it would become impractical to own any horse/pony for most Islanders. For Breeders, distance would make the sale of quality stock to the mainland impossible and businesses would fail.

Below is a list of the most relevant points – along with suggested responses:

A) Maximum journey times: The government proposes to reduce current maximum journey times for all journeys. Journey time would include loading, unloading and any rest periods which would be 45 minute every 4.5 hours and a second driver available if a journey is to longer than 9 hours. The proposal is for a 12 hour max journey time for horses, followed by a 48 hour rest.

This would render virtually all travel off Island impossible. The time spent between loading at home, marshalling for the boat, sea travel and onward journey is frequently impossible within 12 hours from Orkney. To have to rest for 2 days before even a short onwards journey to a venue would make all visits impractical. Orcadians already practice good management with horses becoming accustomed to spending time in transit, with food, space and water being provided.

B) Temperature conditions and ventilation: The government proposes introducing stricter requirements for all journeys during extreme external temperatures.  No journey outside 5 – 30C unless vehicle fitted with facility to regulate temp for ALL journeys however short.

In Orkney and much of Scotland a temperature of over 30C is rare but temperatures below 5 are more common. Trailers are fitted with openings which can allow movement of fresh air without draught, or protection from cold and horses are routinely transported with appropriate clothing if needed to keep them comfortable. Horses do not “feel” the cold in the same way as humans do. If a statutory lower limit were to be put in place, many journeys could not happen which of itself could prejudice welfare. (travel to specialist vets for example)

C) Headroom height: The government proposes implementing new headroom height requirements for all livestock and horse journeys.
Horse Transport is already designed with adequate space and head room allowed. There is no need to alter legislation to improve these.

D) Sea transport: The government proposes to prohibit all journeys by sea during Beaufort Wind Force of 6 or above.

FAWC recommends policy reforms which prevent animals from being transported in severe weather and sea conditions where increased side-to-side or up–and-down motions may occur. The use of Beaufort Force 6 as a benchmark would make much of the travel from Orkney impossible. The Masters of the ships already have a wealth of experience relating to much broader issues including tides, direction of travel, route choices, positioning of Livestock Trailers in the holds and make carefully considered decisions about travelling livestock without the need for more regulation. There are significant health, biosecurity and stress risks associated with the possibility of horses having to spend longer times in strange unregulated facilities while waiting for suitable travel conditions. 

E) Short and long journeys: For all the new requirements, FAWC are proposing that these apply to both short and long journeys all vehicles that are used to physically transport horses (i.e. lorries, trailers, horse boxes) should be inspected by Vehicle Approval Bodies, regardless of journey length. FAWC recommends that accelerometers should be retro-fitted to all vehicles that are used to transport horses and acceleration, braking, cornering and uneven road surfaces should be recorded by these devices. 

This would mean ALL owners would have to incur significant, potentially prohibitive, expense in up-grading vehicles and trailers. Owners and hauliers are already particularly considerate when travelling their animals as it is in their interests for the animals to arrive safely and in good shape for whatever reason the travel has been incurred. 

Every driver – even someone towing to a games practice or a rally at the Market Stance, or a lesson, or to the Vet, or the farrier, or to the Equine Dentist, or even just down the Road to a field WILL be affected if these recommendations are allowed to pass into Law.


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