UK Call for action on fly-grazing

New laws are needed to tackle fly-grazing, according to a new report

New laws are needed to tackle fly-grazing, according to a new report - Credit: Archant

Farmers and landowners’ leaders are calling for Government action on fly-grazing after revealing the scale of the problem in a new report.

Stop the scourge - time to address unlawful fly-grazing in England is published jointly with a number of major charities and rural organisations including World Horse Welfare, Country Land and Business Association (CLA) National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Countryside Alliance and the RSPCA.

It says more than 3,000 horses are being fly-grazed – the practice of leaving horses on someone else’s land without permission.

According the RSPCA, during 2013 it received a total of 226 calls regarding abandonment, including fly-grazing, relating to the welfare of 769 horses.

The RSPCA reports that in 2013 there were 761 reported incidents of abandonment involving 2,553 horses nationally. For 2012, there were 692 reported incidents involving 1,978 horses.


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According to the RSPCA, during 2013 it received 226 calls regarding abandonment, welfare or fly grazing in Suffolk that related to 769 horses during 2013.

In Essex there were 915 calls relating to the welfare of 3,132 horses last year.

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Based on World Horse Welfare figures and those supplied by the RSPCA and HorseWorld, it is estimated that across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge there were 30 to 50 incidents this summer, while across Essex, Kent and East Sussex there were more than 1,000.

Calls to welfare charities about fly-grazing have also risen by two thirds in the past three years following concerns that horses are being abandoned, and large ‘hot spots’ have developed in the eastern region and across the country – with hundreds of animals kept on verges, parkland or farmland in the worst-hit areas.

Those lobbying for change argue that fly-grazed horses threaten the livelihood of farmers, damage land, divert local authority resources, and risk the safety of motorists when they escape onto roads.

Equine charities are often left to deal with complete lack of provision for the animals’ welfare and this can include veterinary treatment and providing extra food where there is a lack of grazing and water.

The report suggests new or updated legislation is needed to tackle unlawfully grazed horses in England along the lines of the Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014. This would enable local authorities and landowners to take swift and cost-effective action to deal with fly-grazing horses, and act as a better deterrent, it claims.

Parliament will debate a proposed change in the law in October when Conservative MP Julian Sturdy’s Control of Horses Bill, supported by all the organisations behind the report, will have its Second Reading.

Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare chief executive, speaking on behalf of the rural organisations and welfare charities said: “It is time for Government to do its part to help stop the scourge of fly-grazing in our countryside, farms and urban areas. We cannot solve this problem alone using existing laws.”

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