I’m sure many of you in the UK will have heard about or seen the CountryFile episode which looked into fly grazing. If you haven’t, you can watch it on BBC Iplayer here.
It touched on some really interesting and important ideas. Fly grazing is a huge issue in the UK due the impact it has on equine welfare. If a horse is tethered in an area, they can injure themselves on the tether and run out of food and water. However, if they are not tethered, there are also risks. The horses are often in open spaces and can therefore end up on the road, causing accidents. Another issue with fly grazing is that it can be unclear as to whether the animal has been abandoned or not.
Last year, a new law was passed, allowing land owners to cease horses being illegally grazed on their land. This has lead to hundreds of horses being ceased and re-homed, many of these horses were in a poor state. However, many of these horses were perfectly healthy, just in an unsafe environment. It is therefore surprising that half of the horses ceased will be humanely put down. This raises the question; is it okay to put a healthy horse down? And could it potentially be a good thing?
This is a very sensitive subject but I feel like it is one that needs to be raised and discussed more. I personally feel that putting a healthy horse down can be okay, but it really depends on the circumstances. Examples of circumstances I feel humane euthanasia is a reasonable solution are as follow;
- The horse has a difficult temperament and can behave dangerously. Not only can this have physical risks to both the horse and handler, but in the wrong hands this could lead to the horse being mistreated and neglected. There are many homes which may be able to handle this animal, however, finding one of these homes can be next to impossible and there is no guarantee that the horse will never fall into the hands of someone else.
- If a horse has a condition where it cannot be ridden or worked again and the current owner can no longer afford to keep the horse. Many horse owners face this problem where for whatever reason, they can no longer afford their horse, however, they are hard to sell/rehome due to no longer being able to be ridden, despite being healthy and happy. Even if they manage to find a home who will not ride or push the horse in a way it can not physically cope with, down the line it may end up somewhere where it is pushed and suffers because of this.
- If there is no where safe for the horse to go. If a healthy horse has been ceased but there is no where for the horse to go where it will be looked after correctly and safe, it is an option to have this horse put to sleep so that it will not suffer in the future.
All these situations are very sad and I think I would really struggle to be involved in putting a healthy horse down, but I do think when you look at the bigger picture, you could be saving the horse from suffering in the future.
However, even in the case where half the horses being ceased under new fly grazing legislation, I find it hard to be against this new procedure. The UK does have a huge problem with equine welfare, with the majority of horses filling rescue centres having been fly grazed or abandoned.
This new legislation is a start to solving this problem. It is very sad that half the horses ceased are put down and some of these horses will be healthy animals. However, I think when you think of the bigger picture, these horses are being put down so that they will never suffer again. Hopefully this legislation will lead to more horses being ceased before they suffer due to being fly grazed or abandoned, which in turn should lead rescue centres having more space as the majority of their horses should be healthy and ready to re-home quickly.
I do think the process needs to be re-examined and worked on, as the program suggested that some councils and land owners will not cease horses as it costs too much. But I think it is a good start to addressing the problem.
What is your opinion on putting healthy horses down? Do you think this new legislation is a good thing?