BHIC backs new Partnership Board - but Horse Sector must have a seat at the table

England's equine community has today welcomed the Government's announcement that a new England Partnership Board originally proposed by the equine sector will be created to transform the way decisions are made on animal health and welfare.

Whilst giving its firm backing to the new Board, the BHIC has stated that the new system can only be successful in tackling animal disease if Ministers ensure that the equine sector feels it is well represented.

Indeed, the BHIC had originally proposed the creation of such a board, fully embedded within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in the early stages of the Government's consultation process.

The Board will be responsible for key decisions affecting the health and welfare of over 1 million horses in England and will have a significant impact on the UK's equine sector, which has a combined economic footprint of £7bn, 50% of which derives from racing.

As set out in the Government's response to the Final Report of the Responsibility and Cost Sharing Advisory Group, the Board will ensure that responsibility for decisions on animal health and welfare is fully shared between Government, industry and animal owners.

The move towards partnership working contrasts with previous proposals to introduce a centralised ‘horse tax', which the equine sector strongly opposed on the grounds that it would have raised costs, produced no benefits, and failed to recognise the contribution to responsibility and cost sharing already being made by the sector.

Jan Rogers, Chair of the BHIC, said:

"The sector has already shown that it can work together to engage constructively with these important issues, and played a very active role in the Advisory Group discussions. This must continue if all sectors involved, and the public at large, are to benefit from the work of the new Board."

Professor Tim Morris, who represented the equine sector on the Independent Responsibility and Cost Sharing Advisory Group, said:

"The new Board will need to be able to call on a broad range of expertise and skills from its members in order to be effective in tackling disease, which is what we all want to see.

"In order to effectively meet the challenges of preventing and managing animal disease in the future it's absolutely vital that the Board includes at least one member with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the horse sector, which in many ways is in a unique position.

"We believe that the partnership approach set out today is a positive step towards reducing the risk of disease for horses, so it's very important that the equine community is able to make a full contribution."

April 26th, 2011