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Animal welfare
Supporting equine welfare projects at home and abroad

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THE British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Trust teamed up with the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) earlier this month to pilot two separate equine welfare projects, one in the UK and one in Morocco.

Snipped and chipped

In the UK, seven veterinary volunteers helped with a pilot ‘non-stop’ equine castration and microchipping day organised by the BHS in Hampshire. BHS welfare officers had identified local horses that needed gelding and/or microchipping and had arranged the logistics for the day. The vets then gelded 28 colts and stallions and microchipped and issued passports for a total of 45 horses.

The BEVA Trust says that the initiative was an important trial run for further clinics that are planned for the coming year. The aim is to inform owners, establish links with the veterinary profession, reduce accidental breeding and help with identification and traceability of horses. The BHS estimates that, by holding 12 successful castration clinics, the birth of thousands of foals over the next two generations could be prevented. Also, working with horse owners to microchip and provide passports for their horses will increase the number of horses being correctly identified, help protect the food chain and improve the traceability of fly-grazed and abandoned horses.

Martin Peaty, of the Barn Equine Surgery in Hampshire, was one of the veterinary volunteers. He commented: ‘Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies contribute to an oversupply of foals and eventually unwanted horses, which is a major welfare issue. In addition, colts and stallions are more difficult to look after and find good homes for. It was great to be involved with like-minded colleagues in this project to help take positive action to tackle these problems.’

Lee Hackett, director of policy at the BHS, added: ‘Thanks to BEVA Trust vets our castration and microchipping project is set to make a real difference to Britain's equine overpopulation problem, which is the root cause of the majority of the welfare problems we encounter.’

CPD in Morocco

As part of the second project supported by the BEVA Trust, two vets flew to Casablanca in Morocco to provide CPD to vets at SPANA's annual congress. Chris Pearce, of the Equine Dental Clinic in Dorset, lectured on dentistry, while Caroline George, of Lambourn Equine Vets, taught wound management using lectures and a practical workshop.

Dr Pearce said, ‘We met vets from Mauritania, Ethiopia, Mali, Tunisia, Jordan and Zimbabwe as well as from Morocco – such lovely people and all trying to help the working equids of Africa.’

Jeremy Hulme, chief executive of SPANA, said that the charity was very grateful for the support of the BEVA Trust, and to Dr Pearce and Miss George for their contributions. ‘We were delighted that they were able to share their knowledge, expertise and skills with our vets at our CPD event, improving their knowledge and skills to ensure that horses, donkeys and other working animals in some of the world's poorest countries receive the high-quality veterinary treatment they so desperately need.’

Vets castrate a young colt during an equine castration and microchipping day in Hampshire Chris Pearce lectures on equine dentistry during SPANA's annual congress in Morocco

The BEVA Trust is the philanthropic arm of BEVA and was established almost 50 years ago. Until recently, the bulk of its expenditure was small grants relating to travel and education. However, following a review last year, its focus has changed, with BEVA members expressing a desire for it to focus on voluntary veterinary participation in charitable welfare projects. The trust reports that more than 40 vets volunteered their services for the limited places available on these two pilot projects.

‘We are encouraged by the very positive response by BEVA members to the call for volunteers,’ said Julian Samuelson, chairman of the BEVA Trust committee. ‘BEVA will review the success of these pilot projects and consider continuing and expanding its support of this type of pro bono initiative.’

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