A combine harvests a cereal crop

Fly grazing rockets as traveller community exploits legal loophole

CASES of fly grazing, where horses are illegally dumped on private land, have shot up in recent months bringing misery to the farming community. 

The following press release has in the last month been published in differing forms by Horse & Hound, Farmers Guardian, Farmers Weekly and various newspapers:-

The unwelcome trend has seen farmers and landowners effectively powerless to remove the animals, which are left there by nearby travellers – often in the middle of the night.

Without the necessary passports the horses cannot be sold on or sent for slaughter leaving landowners liable for the animal and unable to use or resell their land.

Sarah Jordan, equine legal expert with law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, said she had seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of calls from the victims of fly grazing in the last six months.

She said: “This is a growing problem; I’ve had double the number of enquiries I normally get from land owners and farmers who have woken up to find their land occupied by traveller’s horses.

“It’s a serious issue for them because none of these horses have passports so they cannot get them off their land, either by selling them or sending them for slaughter – auction houses and slaughter houses just don’t want to know without the correct documentation.

“There are also real issues of intimidation with the traveller community and fly grazing, and this is leaving landowners powerless to act.”

One landowner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said she had had 21 fly grazing horses on her plot for 18 months and had tried everything to get them removed.

Ms X said: “We’ve now had to resort to spraying the grass on our land to kill it all off so there is nothing for the horses to eat. Our fences were stolen, the barbed wire cut, and the police tell us there is nothing they can do because it is a civil matter.

“I know other landowners who have tried to take on the travellers but they’ve ended up having their barns burnt down, their equipment wrecked and one even found his dog hanging from a tree.

“This is a national problem and it’s got completely out of control. Fear and intimidation is ruining people’s lives and businesses. The law must be changed so we don’t face ruin for having our own land stolen from under our noses.”

Sarah Jordan called on DEFRA to step in to properly enforce the horse passport system so that all horses in the UK have the correct documentation.

She said: “The current system is not fit for purpose and is giving protection to law breakers and persecuting law-abiding citizens. DEFRA must act to close this loophole which is causing so much misery for large numbers of landowners right across the UK.

“There needs to be some form of statutory allowance in place for a passport to be issued temporarily for the farmer and landowner in order for them to sell the horses on or send them for slaughter if the auction houses will not take them.  In all instances, any proceeds of sale or slaughter received for the animals should be used towards any damage caused to the land.

“The police also need to be given powers to intervene in these cases and defend the rights of people who for no fault of their own are being intimidated into effectively giving away their land for fear of some sort of reprisal.”