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Saturday, May 28, 2005

UK Fox Hunting Ban Will Cripple Livelihood of Farriers; Association Seeks Compensation from Government

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Britain’s landed gentry may be inconvenienced and incensed by the recent Parliamentary ban on foxhunting, but the spotlight for fighting the ban shifted recently from lords and ladies and even from hounds and the fox.

The true victims of the hunting ban, according to recent studies published in England, are rural farriers who depend on income from shoeing hunters to make it through the winter. And their national trade association intends to do something about it.

A crisis meeting of the National Association of Farriers, Blacksmiths and Agricultural Engineers (NAFBAE) in December launched a course for the association to pursue in defense of its members and their livelihood.

“I have written to the Prime Minister…my letter served formal notice of NAFBAE’s intention to lodge a formal claim on behalf of its members once accurate quantifiable losses have been ascertained,” wrote NAFBAE President Les Armstrong to his members in February.

Armstrong noted that precedent for his action was government compensation to gun shop owners and dealers following a national ban on hand guns in the past.

“I suspect the government may be liable for constructive dismissive claims by farriers who are forcibly made redundant (unemployed),” he continued.

Armstrong attended the 2005 American Farrier’s Association Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February, and beseeched farriers there to unite and work for and with their horse-related economic and professional partners. “Don’t let what has happened to us happen here,” he pleaded.

The ever-efficient Britons report that there are 65,000 horses used exclusively for foxhunting in the UK, with another 65,000 used for hunting and other sports, plus 100,000 horses that occasionally follow hounds. The nation’s 2200 registered farriers shoe hunters every four weeks at an average cost of $80.

For the average farrier, a ban on traditional foxhunting means a loss of 25 to 35 per cent of annual income. While some hunts might convert to drag or follow bloodhounds, those sports put less demand on horses and require less frequent and less tactical methods of shoeing.

According to NAFBAE’s projections, lowered demand for shoeing will mean that 17 fewer apprentices per year will be needed to enter the slackened trade, and that the hardest effects will fall on young farriers leaving apprenticeships to start their own businesses; NAFBAE projects that 17 farriers working as employees for larger firms.will lose their jobs.

Also addressing the NAFBAE membership in December was Miles Williamson-Noble, Registrar of the Farriers Registration Council (UK), who discussed the possible legal “aiding and abetting” ramifications of farriers shoeing horses as if for traditional pursuit of the fox with hounds.

An added irony of the government ban on hunting is that the government also funds the training of farrier apprentices.

The FRC’s report on hunting suggests that many farriers will need to re-locate away from rural areas dependent on hunting as a base for the local horse economy.

The poster child of the overthrow-the-ban campaign is not the upper class British horseman, but an outspoken farrier’s wife, Mair Hughes, who was one of three plaintiffs in a high-profile lawsuit against the government; they complained that the foxhunting ban’s pressured passage by Labor party members violated the Parliamentary Act.

When the lawsuit failed, the loss of income to farriers took center stage, along with a challenge to the European Union’s Court of Human Rights, where the decimation of the British rural way of life will be charged as a means to force Parliament to reverse the ban.

Added to the lost income to farriers is the trickle down effects on horseshoe retailers and manufacturers and other horse-related professional service providers such as saddlers, grooms, feed and hay dealers, and veterinarians.

--Fran Jurga

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