Britain’s racing industry has today welcomed the publication of forward-thinking proposals that throw out previous plans to create a costly ‘Animal Health’ quango and charge all owners a yearly disease control tax on every horse in the country.
Instead, the equine industry will be at the heart of a new partnership approach with Government, set to transform how decisions on animal disease and welfare are taken.
The British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), led by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), has been at the forefront of the development of the final proposals. Set out in a report published today by the Advisory Group on Responsibility and Cost Sharing, the proposals include plans to establish a unique new ‘England Partnership Board’ within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). If implemented by Ministers, the new Board would see responsibility for decisions on animal health and welfare fully shared between Government, industry and animal owners.
Whilst giving its firm backing to the recommendations, the BHIC has called on Defra Ministers to ensure that the equine sector, which has a combined economic impact of £7bn, is well represented on the new Board should it go ahead, with racing (which makes up 50% of this impact) as a key component.
The whole equine sector strongly opposed the original proposals for a ‘Horse Tax’ on the grounds that it would have raised costs and produced no benefits. Horseracing already contributes around £750,000 per year in funding towards preventing and controlling infectious diseases via the Horserace Betting Levy. Today’s report makes it clear that the Advisory Group has rejected the option of a new charge on owner, trainers and breeders, proposing instead a solution that will see industry and Government working together in genuine partnership to develop a system of fair and efficient cost sharing.
Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare of the BHA, and Chair of the BHIC, said:
“We all know that disease is a constant risk to horses. But a hugely expensive and bureaucratic ‘Animal Health’ quango and a tax on every horse owner was not the way to reduce those risks. Owners and breeders of thoroughbreds already more than pay their way.
“Through the BHIC the whole equine sector came together and worked as one voice to both oppose the original untenable proposals and come up with constructive alternatives. Indeed, the ideas for a small Board within Government, better use of insurance and a review of compensation were all championed by the sector.
“We’re confident that the proposals set out today represent the best way forward on Responsibility and Cost Sharing and racing looks forward to continuing to engage with Ministers on vitally important issues such as the spread of equine disease.”
Rosemary Radcliffe, the chair of the RCS Advisory Group said:
“The very diverse equine sector, with good leadership and a willingness to work together, engaged very constructively in these important discussions. Such a cooperative approach bodes well for the partnership which we are proposing as the way forward.”
Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation, said:
“Trainers know the importance of healthy horses, but the last thing they needed at this time is extra costs with no benefits. It great news that the ‘Horse Tax’ has been shelved, to see the recognition that racing already does fund disease surveillance through the betting levy, and that the Advisory Group is saying that horse industry must be involved in Defra’s decision making on disease prevention and control.”