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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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'Fly-grazing' on rise as hard-up owners abandon unwanted horses

Exasperated landowners say that hundreds of horses are now being dumped in the countryside by their hard-up owners.

Dorothy Fairburn photo
Dorothy Fairburn

The scourge of ‘horse-tipping’ has hit the county in recent months causing a major headache for farmers.

Following a spate of incidents around Carlisle, the Country, Landowners and Business Association is renewing its call to make dumping horses a crime.

‘Fly-grazing’, where horses are left to fend for themselves on someone else’s land, is currently not a crime but a civil trespass and so not actionable by the police.

CLA North regional director Dorothy Fairburn said they had dealt with hundreds of cases country-wide over the past year.

“The farmer or landowner left with these abandoned horses is also left with the cost of looking after them, the legal responsibility for any damage or injury caused by them, and with having to deal with the lost grazing for their own stock and any damage caused.”

She added: “With local authorities already having to deal with horses left on publicly-owned land and animal charities at full stretch, the landowner has no option but to take often costly legal action to have the horses removed safely.”

The latest spate of fly-grazing has been reported by Craig Brough of Harrison & Hetherington land and property consultants in Carlisle, who said: “Fly-grazing hasn’t really been an issue in this area before, but we have helped clients deal with cases around Carlisle in the last few months.

“As it’s not a criminal act, the police are powerless to intervene and so in each case it has been down to the landowner to take action.”

Despite MPs from all areas of the country and across Parliament urging Defra to deal with the escalating situation in a debate late last year, it is still unclear exactly what action they are proposing to take.

Miss Fairburn added: “Some local authorities and police forces are putting procedures in place to tackle this growing problem, but it’s not enough.

“The only real solution is to make horse abandonment a crime so that those who break the law are dealt with efficiently and appropriately.”

NFU north west’s Carl Hudspith said: “We began our inquiry into the growing problem of fly-grazing long before the horse scandal came to light.

“But the large numbers of horses being dumped on farmland must be going somewhere if their owners collect them, and it is certainly possible that a lot of them are being moved across borders and into abattoirs using forged passports.

“The passport system has been described as shambolic, and clearly it is not effective.

“The Government must make the changes necessary to ensure that the system meets the need for traceability while not impeding the efforts of farmers who need to get abandoned horses off their land.”

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