Worries over horses’ welfare

THE WELFARE of horses pulling carriages along Eastbourne seafront as a tourist attraction has been raised as a concern by councillors.

Eastbourne Borough Council is currently exploring the possibility of offering horse- drawn carriage pleasure rides up and down the town’s seafront.

A short trial was undertaken last year to test the route and the idea has been discussed at other meetings.

However, at the full council meeting at Eastbourne Town Hall on Wednesday evening councillors discussed sending the matter to the licensing committee to make arrangements.

While the majority of councillors were in favour of the plans, some raised concerns about the welfare of the horses.

Cllr Philip Ede said he made no apology for not supporting the proposal and said, “Personally, I am not in favour of the re-introduction of horse-drawn omnibuses in any circumstances, they are mostly heavy and cumbersome vehicles, that do not sit well with modern thinking on equine welfare.

“They will also further impede the already slow progress of traffic in the town during peak season.

“The seafront is fraught with hazards for a horse, similar to those faced by cyclists, which include inconsiderate coach drivers, numerous road junctions, zebra crossings and a notoriously uneven road surface.”

Cllr Ede said bylaws outlining very clear and enforceable welfare conditions with strict health and safety guidelines should be drawn up by an independent equine expert if the tourist attraction goes ahead.

He said the licence conditions should include random welfare checks by independent experts.

Cllr Annabelle West also raised similar concerns and added, “Because I am a previous equine rider, when I am in other countries where they do have horse drawn carriages I always look at the conditions of the animals, what they are expected to draw behind them and especially how their hoofs are maintained and in many cases they are not good.”

Council leader Cllr David Tutt said the welfare of the animals was a serious consideration and said he would welcome a presentation to all councillors from Animal Aid.

Cllr Tutt said, “I believe that council is safe in agreeing this tonight, with the safety net that we will listen to Animal Aid before going any further.”

Cllr Ede added, “Some aspects of our Victorian past are best left there, along with typhoid and child labour.”

Despite concerns, the council voted to take the plan forward to the next stage at Wednesday night’s meeting.