Stop feeding our horses initiative supported in West Berkshire
A NATIONAL campaign called #StopFeedingOurHorses is looking to spread awareness about the dangers of feeding horses, ponies, donkeys and livestock.
Many horse owners in West Berkshire support the initiative and want the public to understand the dangers.
The main aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about the dangers of feeding horses, donkeys, and other livestock without the owner’s permission and understanding the full extent of each animal’s health needs.
On its website and social media pages, the group outlines what the specific dangers are due to the complex nature of horses, ponies and their health.
The group says that since the start of the lockdowns there has been an increase in the number of people visiting the countryside.
During these visits, well-intentioned members of the public feed animals that do not belong to them and this has resulted in illnesses and sometimes even death.
In West Berkshire, horse owners and farmers have shared their stories of animals getting ill and choking on produce given to them by pedestrians who are using public footpaths.
This has particularly been an issue within the Hermitage area where there are many public footpaths that are close to horse fields.
Campaigners say that while people who walk along these countryside footpaths can stop and admire the horses from a distance, it is in the best interest of both them and the animals to not go too close.
Organisers of the campaign say that it is “never right” to feed an animal without the permission of owners.
The campaign also has two active petitions running to request the law be changed so that the act of feeding any livestock without the permission of the owner becomes illegal. One has now reached 10,000 signatures and has a response from the Government.
Under current law feeding horses without the owner's permission is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006. This means that those responsible can be prosecuted.
The group has the full support of the British Horse Society, Defra and the NFU, as well as various charitable organisations such as HAPPA and World Horse Welfare.
Newbury MP Laura Farris is also supporting this locally.
The group is also pushing for an overarching culture change to make feeding horses and livestock as socially unacceptable as littering and fly tipping.
It is unsafe to feed horses, donkeys, and other livestock that do not belong to you because of complications it can cause in their health.
Health conditions such as diabetes and laminitis can make it difficult for these animals to digest food that is given to them.
Animals may also have teeth problems which mean they may not be able to chew on the food that they are given, which can cause them to choke in many instances.
Speaking to Newbury Weekly News, West Berkshire horse owner Natalie Munir, who is highly involved with the campaign, states that this is “not a new issue”.
She said: “Horses, ponies and other animals that belong to someone should never be fed without the owner’s permission.
"If there has been a prior conversation with the owner about what the animal can eat then that is okay.
"You wouldn’t feed a dog in somebody’s garden and this should not be seen as any different.”
Whilst the campaign has already gained a lot of support within equine communities, organisers would like to reach the wider, non-equine community who may not know as much about horses.
The group is on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more information about what it wants to achieve. Its website is #StopFeedingOurHorses.
Campaign organisers have also set up a private Facebook group for equine owners to share their stories of their animals getting ill and passing away. The private Facebook group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/117708650211011/
There is a public Facebook group which members of the public can join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/210078577521390/?ref=share