The British Horse Council is pushing to ensure that the importance of the equine industry is not forgotten among the wider Brexit debate in the lead-up to next week’s general election.
The council has issued a new manifesto before voters go to the polls on December 12, in an election primarily called to break the Brexit impasse.
The council describes its simple two-page document as a timely reminder to parliamentary candidates of why the British horse sector matters in the 2019 election.
It points out that 1.3 million voters in the UK ride regularly, and 3.1 million who have ridden in the past have expressed a desire to ride again.
The nation has an estimated 1 million horses, and is ranked as the second-largest rural employer in the country after agriculture.
The equine industry contributes an estimated £8 billion to the economy, and generates £500 million in overseas trade each year.
The industry, it says, is internationally recognised as a global leader in equine sports, offering the Government “a soft power asset with untapped trading potential”.
It suggests the government can help in a range of ways, including promoting riding as a great physical activity and improving sustainable access to safe on and off-road riding.
The council championed the need for a simple and easy-to-use horse identification system, and says the government should provide the resources to enforce equine welfare legislation. It also called for the licensing of equine sanctuaries and rehoming centres.
Turning to Brexit-related issues, the council says the incoming government needs to recognise the skilled-labour needs of the sector (from grooms to vets) for any future immigration system.
The government, it says, needs to ensure the smooth movement of horses with high health status under any future arrangements with the European Union.
Council chairman David Mountford describes the manifesto as a punchy summary of the areas of vital importance to those within the equine sector.
“We aim to make as many people as possible aware of the scope of our industry, the horse’s contribution to society and the things we would like newly elected parliamentarians to focus on when they first step into office.”
The manifesto can be read here.