THE support of the equestrian community is urgently being called upon to help fight far-reaching proposals to radically change the way veterinary medicines are sold.
As the campaign to
fight European Commission legislation is stepped up
This is the plea put out from the Animal Health Alliance (AHA) formed last year to specially challenge the proposals.
The changes, if approved would mean all medicines for equines would be obtainable only under prescription.
This would include not only essential medicines such as horse wormers, (classified as PML) but also certain over the counter products (so called GSL's) such as some sweet itch treatments and insecticidal shampoos.
Under the current system these items are either freely available or as in the case of wormers are available only from registered outlets when sold by suitably qualified individuals.
The British Equestrian Trade Association, (BETA) working as part of the Animal Health Alliance, has been lobbying against these changes and the Alliance has now submitted an amendment to Brussels which, if accepted, would allow the UK to continue to offer medicines in a way similar to the existing system.
Claire Williams, Chief Executive and Secretary of BETA explains: "We first brought this to the attention of the Equestrian Industry in October and many did contact their MP and MEP with their concerns. We are concerned however that people haven't grasped the seriousness of the potential effects on both horses directly and the equestrian industry in general."
"If the legislation goes ahead horse owners would lose the convenience of being able to buy their wormers and other routinely used medicinal products from their local retail saddler and as well be faced with the real possibility of increased prices as competition declines.
"That this would inevitably be to the detriment of equine welfare as the frequency of treatment declines is an unavoidable result of the legislation if successfully passed," continued Ms Williams.
As well as concerns over welfare issues and consumer rights the proposals will have a major impact on the whole equestrian industry. Many retailers and agricultural merchants are reliant on the turnover and foot-traffic that horse wormers and other medicines create.
More than 3,000 jobs could be jeopardised and over 600 retail saddles and 1,000 agricultural merchants could be affected by the changes.
Currently the proposals are being considered in Brussels and it is vital that the AHA amendment be supported as the legislation moves forward.
Claire Williams concludes: "It is now vital that the equestrian industry and horse owners themselves make their support of the status-quo clear to both MP's and MEP's and highlight the negative effects the proposed changes would have on them, their horses and their livelihoods.
"The United Kingdom already has a safe and secure system in place for the supply of equine medicines and little benefit can be seen in changing what is already a proven and effective distribution structure. Instead it would impose a degree of over-restriction which could result in illegal trading and a reduction in competition and choice."