#BornToDie Campaign Calls for Greater Enforcement of Animal Welfare Act

Sue Burton, founder of Remus Horse Sanctuary, has launched her #BornToDie campaign whilst commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the charity earlier this summer. Ms Burton is calling for greater enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act in relation to equine welfare – saving horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.

Across the UK horses are being let down by those who fail to give the care that horses, ponies and other equines should be able to rely on as a very basic right. Mares are still being forced to breed every year, many on a tethering chain with their foals being born to a life they wouldn’t choose, and as Remus sees so often literally being Born to Die. 

Ms Burton said, “We do have a whole raft of laws, but the problem lies with the enforcement. If the laws were enforced, then we would not have the ongoing welfare issues that we see so regularly.”

In December 2020, the Charity Times reported: “There are more than 7,000 horses currently known to animal welfare charities at risk of neglect or being abandoned. Currently charities take on more than 2,000 horse welfare cases a year.” 

The police – who must be relied upon to enter property or confiscate animals, will often not investigate, telling Ms Burton that they “signpost the public to the RSPCA” – who have no statutory powers, and are already overstretched.

At the start of this year, Ms Burton asked two police forces either side of the Dartford Tunnel for data on equine neglect crimes; one said they didn’t collect that information and advised the public are asked to contact the RSPCA if they are aware of crimes against animals, and the other did not respond.

Improving the Effectiveness of Animal Welfare Enforcement by APGAW (All Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare) confirmed that there is a huge level of inconsistency with some forces seeing the value of having officers dealing with animal welfare and recognising it can be connected to other types of crime and others not seeing any value. Furthermore, equines fall in between both companion and livestock legislation.   

Local authorities can choose to appoint inspectors, but don’t have to – again many signposting to charities, including every local authority website that Ms Burton and her team researched in Essex. Different levels of authority have different responsibilities. For example, where a borough council is accountable for fly-grazing, a county council is responsible for the welfare of horses being transported. 

At the 40th Anniversary luncheon held at Ingatestone Hall in Essex, attended by the charity’s Patrons, dignitaries and trustees, Ms Burton shared, “I have witnessed so many awful sights that I can never unsee. I have cried a lake of tears. I never fail to be stunned at how much suffering these stoic animals take, at how awful mankind can be to such noble innocent animals and how so many in authority ignore their plight due to deficiencies in our legal system.

“I am so proud of what Remus has achieved over the past 40 years and the animals who have come through our gates that we have been able to turn round – from emaciated, terrified, beaten, and in two cases deliberately blinded wrecks, to animals now able to live and enjoy a normal happy life free from suffering, hunger and fear. 

“But what good is a law that isn’t enforced? Deficiencies in our legal system should not be the reason thousands of these noble innocent animals suffer each and every year.”

Ms Burton is calling for the following:

  1. a named post within every County Council and unitary Authority, responsible for enforcement action across the full range of equine cruelty, working with lower tier authorities, the police and charities.
  2. a national education programme, promoted across communities who are traditionally less likely to understand the importance of equine care, cascaded to support workers facilitating conversations with such communities.
  3. publication by each local authority of information relating to equine welfare cases, including the number of reports, attendances, investigations and prosecutions, and details of whether referrals have come through charities or members of the public.

Attendees at the luncheon included HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh GCVO, Royal Patron to the charity since 2013, two more of the charity’s patrons: Lord Petre and his son The Hon. Dominic Petre, and Andrew Rosindell MP for Romford; Mr Vincent Thompson, His Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant; Mr Charles Bishop, High Sheriff of Essex; Councillor Jill Reeves, Chair of Essex County Council; Councillor Linda Mascot, Mayor of Chelmsford City Council; Mr Nick Eveleigh, the Chief Executive of Chelmsford City Council, and Mr Andy Mariner, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex Police. Along with the charity’s trustees, supporters, suppliers and vets. 

Of the new #BornToDie campaign, Conservative MP for Romford Mr Andrew Rosindell commented: “The government needs to step up. I’m very committed as a former shadow minister for animal welfare to continue to raise these issues in parliament and to lobby the government to change the culture of animal welfare in this country and I’m committed to working with Remus to ensure that happens.”

Ms Burton concluded, “The Animal Welfare Act should ensure that all equines, and other kept animals, are protected.

“But the protection of these beautiful animals, who have stood with humans for centuries – from farming to war, from friendship to servitude – falls to charities often stretched for resources. Too often, members of the public have no information on how to act. 

“Please, support our #BornToDie campaign for greater enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act in relation to equine welfare.” 

For further information, visit www.remussanctuary.org/borntodie or contact Sue Burton on tel: 01277 356191 if you can help promote or add value to the campaign.

Remus will be hosting its final Open Day of the season on Sunday 1 October, in celebration of World Animal Day, for those wishing to visit the Sanctuary.

Luncheon images by Christopher Rushton.

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