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Support Our Campaign to Ban Hot Branding

Hot branding is the single or repeated application of a red hot iron to the skin of a horse or pony. It is a traditional method of identifying wild ponies. Not only is this process painful, but as a charity we specialise in handling ponies that are traumatised by their experience of the process and are too frightened to find “normal” homes.

People4ponies believes that brands are an unreliable, unnecessary form of identification and that branding does not improve the welfare of the ponies; in fact the handling, restraint and branding is detrimental to the overall welfare and future of the ponies. Microchipping of ponies should be compulsory without derogation.

Neil Parish MP has been helping us to fight for a ban on the practice of hot branding. DEFRA's recent review in 2013 has led to some positive results - although we haven’t yet achieved the full ban we were looking for, there have been changes...

In Defra’s review into hot branding, they concluded that hot branding of domesticated horses and wild ponies being permanently removed from moorland areas is illegal, and in fact has been since the new Animal Welfare Act came into effect in 2006. This announcement will make a huge difference to lots of Exmoor ponies who can no longer be branded. The review also means that hot branding of Warmblood breeds is also illegal and Defra has assured us that the Societies have been contacted and informed about the clarification to the law.

Whilst the review still allows wild ponies to be hot branded, there are changes to the procedures. The Exmoor Pony Society were encouraged to reduce the number of brands (which were up to 7 individual brands applications per pony) to one brand only. The wild pony societies have been asked to produce a Code of Conduct for the practise. We have been told by Defra that this is nearly completed but we have not yet seen the Code and what it consists of.

At the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare meeting at Parliament in October 2013, our MP Neil Parish (who also chairs the committee) allowed us to ask Lord de Mauley about what Defra would require to progress to a full ban on hot branding. Lord de Mauley responded by saying that he believes that the practice should be banned and that Defra want technology to be put forward (e.g microchips that can be read from a distance) before they can progress to a full ban. He is strongly encouraging the wild pony societies to look for alternatives to hot branding.

As it is now possible for us to track all kinds of species (birds, newts, sharks, bears etc) there must be technology available that could be applied to “wild” ponies and we hope that it won’t be too long before the final step is made to ban hot branding in England, just as it has already been banned in Scotland and Northern Ireland (…and Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Holland!)

Hot branding an Exmoor foal - screenshot taken from The Exmoor Pony Society promotional video on hot branding

Hot Branding Factfile

- Hot branding is already banned for all other species of animal in the UK.

- Equine hot branding is already banned in Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Scotland (2010) and Northern Ireland (2012).

- Hot branding is also considered unacceptable by the British Veterinary Association, British Equine Veterinary Association, RSPCA, The British Horse Society, The Blue Cross, and other groups such as Animal Aid. All these groups support a ban.

- Hot branding is an unreliable means of identifying ponies. Brands marks distort and many disappear completely. Brands that might be visible in summer become invisible when ponies have their winter coats – just at the time when welfare issues peak in times of bad weather.

- Hot branding is legal as a means of identification but brands are not a legally accepted proof of ownership in welfare cases. Owners deny ownership when there is a welfare situation. Ponies live for a long time – up to 30 years+ and will usually have multiple owners in their lifetime. Brands cannot be changed with ownership.

- Microchipping of ponies should be compulsory without derogation – breeders already have a working system in place at markets. Exmoors are already microchipped because of the high degree of mis-identification of ponies. Some wild pony herd owners already use tail cutting as a means of identification and ignore asking for brands as a means of identification at all.


Screenshot photo taken from BBC Spotlight feature on hot branding: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/8317991.stm


What Other Organisations Say About Hot Branding...

The BHS states “The BHS believe there is little doubt that the application of hot irons to an animal causes injustifiable pain...The British Horse Society cannot condone a practise which elevates the convenience of the owner to a position above the welfare of the horse”.

RSPCA – “There is considerable scientific evidence that hot branding causes significant pain and suffering to horses and ponies which is unnecessary, as alternative means of identification are available”.

BVA – “The BVA supports the position of its equine division, BEVA, that hot branding does not offer the same scientific guarantees as a microchip and should not be used as an alternative to the insertion of a microchip. Hot branding is generally carried out without analgesia and is undoubtedly a painful process. The BVA believe that the continued use of hot branding as a means of identifying certain breeds is unacceptable and should be banned on welfare grounds”.

The Blue Cross - "Hot branding is an out-dated and inhumane way of identifying horses. Usually it is carried out without anaesthetic and causes unnecessary suffering for days afterwards. Microchipping horses and ponies is far better than branding, not only on welfare grounds but it is also easier to implant a chip and far more information can be stored and retrieved. The Blue Cross is calling for this ban on hot branding of horses to be implemented across the rest of the UK”.

People4ponies – “People4ponies believes that brands are an unreliable, unnecessary form of identification and that branding does not improve the welfare of the ponies; in fact the handling, restraint and branding is detrimental to the overall welfare and future of the ponies”.

Help Spread The Word About Our Campaign - We've been campaigning for a ban on hot branding since 2009. Since then, we've come a long way and we are closer than ever to achieving a full ban in the UK...


All photos and text copyright people4ponies unless otherwise stated © 2012