World Horse Welfare has released a moving animation to kick start the charity’s horse smuggling campaign ‘#StopHorseSmuggling’ is being formally launched at Badminton Horse Trials this week.

The film tells the story of Rosie, a much-loved children’s pony who falls into the hands of smugglers. It highlights how those involved in the illegal trade in horses have little to no regard for their welfare and are able to cover their tracks and get away with their crimes.

“Not all horses are as well-treated as those competing at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, as many British horses continue to be illegally smuggled in and out of the UK each year,” said Jessica Stark, Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

“Our campaign aims to raise awareness of this sobering issue which sees horses transported to and from the UK in horrendous conditions, deprived of food and water and suffer long journeys with no opportunity to rest. The horses caught up in this illegal trade can also experience rough handling and mistreatment, as well as being at high risk of disease. Some may be bound for slaughter but for the vast majority their fate is unknown and could be much worse.”

The animation forms the first part of World Horse Welfare’s #StopHorseSmuggling campaign and is being used alongside interactive public engagement activities at their Badminton stand that aim to demonstrate the need for a fully digitised equine ID and traceability system and better enforcement.

Visitors to Badminton Horse Trials will be invited to explore the issue of horse smuggling through an interactive experience at the World Horse Welfare stand. The main activity is a “Find the Smuggled Ponies” scavenger hunt, which will send participants around exhibitor stands within the Shopping Village to find four ‘smuggled’ ponies and identify them on a passport. Within the stand itself, visitors can scan a microchipped pony and work out which of three passports matches its description, and have a go at matching foal pictures with a range of photos of them as adults to highlight how they can change dramatically as they grow.

The animation and all the public engagement materials have been put together using knowledge from over 15 years of investigations and research carried out by World Horse Welfare. The charity has also drawn from a recent case study known as the ‘Dover 26’, where a consignment of horses was abandoned at a Kent holding yard when authorities discovered they were being smuggled out of the UK.

The mixed load of 26 animals had been crammed onto a transporter to be exported, possibly from Ireland, through Britain and believed to be heading to slaughter in Europe. Many of the horses were unfit for the journey, with in foal mares, unhandled youngsters and a severely arthritic mare who required euthanasia. The remaining horses are now being cared for at World Horse Welfare’s Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk.

The charity continues to push for stricter regulations and enforcement, especially in light of the progressing Animal Welfare (Live Exports) Bill in the UK Government.

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