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Multiple Hot Branding of Exmoor Ponies MUST Stop


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#1 Equine Tourism

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:03 PM

Multiple Hot Branding of Exmoor Ponies MUST Stop - Discussion Welcome

The Results of the Long Awaited RSPCA Report on the Identification (and Hot Branding) of Equines (Moorland Ponies)

In 2010, a specialist equine welfare scientist was asked to study the identification methods of moorland ponies and compile a report, which would enable the RSPCA to join organisations like the British Horse Society (Against Hot Branding) , the British Equine Veterinary Association (Against Hot Branding) and the Scottish Government (Against Hot Branding), in deciding whether to approve or disapprove methods such as the use of hot branding of moorland ponies. Up until now, the RSPCA has not made a firm stance on this issue and the results of this report have been much anticipated.

The results of the report have now been announced and the main conclusion of the RSPCA is that they consider the individual microchip to be a suitable method of identification for moorland ponies and that they do not recommend the use of hot branding.

Quotes from the RSPCA website - www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/horses/health/identification:

"Hot branding involves the application of a very hot iron to the skin for several seconds or until the hide turns a light tan colour. This causes significant pain and suffering - more than freeze marking or microchipping. The RSPCA believes that this pain and suffering is unnecessary because there are effective alternative means of identification available which cause less suffering."

"Moorland ponies - The RSPCA believe that moorland ponies should not be hot branded. Instead, they should be fitted with a microchip as this provides a guarantee of identity which is more reliable than hot branding. Freeze marking is often not suitable for moorland ponies that cannot be held still for long enough."

"Leisure horses and ponies - Owners of horses and ponies should have their horse or pony microchipped as this is likely to be the least painful method of permanent identification of equines. If owners are concerned about the possibility of theft, they may consider freeze marking, but should be aware that it causes some pain and suffering. Owners of moorland ponies should have them microchipped and use a collar with a permanent numerical, alphabetical or symbolic marking if they require visible identification."

This report follows the decision of the Scottish Parliament to ban the use of hot branding on equines in Scotland in September 2010.

To read more about the results of the RSPCA report, here's the link:

RSPCA REPORT ON MOORLAND PONY IDENTIFICATION

Pictured below: The Hot Brand on a three year old Exmoor mare, which opens up every Spring-Autumn, as the brand has been applied too deeply through the layers of skin and only heals over during the winter, unless cared for daily - not possible for free-living ponies. This brand does not visually identify the mare clearly, either, and is supposed to be a three-digit number.
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Dartmoor pony brands - from April 2011
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Do Exmoor Ponies really Deserve this? Surely we can do better for Britain's Ancient Wild Horse? Isn't it time we made change and a better start in life for foals like this:

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#2 Equine Tourism

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:30 PM

Further reading:

See our BBC Countryfile thead which discusses Hot Branding - CLICK HERE

ARTICLE:
The Continued Hot Branding of Equines

By Miriam Geraghty MRCVS

Throughout the five years of vet school, budding veterinary surgeons students are encouraged to question “outdated” practices that they might see whilst on EMS, and are taught to constantly ask themselves 'Why' the vet is performing a procedure/administering a drug/giving particular management advice.

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One of the three hot brands of a three year old Exmoor filly, which opens up into bleeding unidentifiable sores from spring to autumn, and which is unreadable during winter. The filly is highly sensitive to being handled on the branded side.

Many vets and vet students are completely unaware of the practice of hot branding, which is routinely done by the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) and New Forest breeders. However, ignorance is no excuse, and as such it is important for the veterinary profession to consider the necessity of this procedure.

Exmoor and New Forest ponies are unique amongst the British Native ponies in that, traditionally, they were hot branded as a method of primary identification. While New Forests only carry an owner’s mark, registered Exmoor ponies are hot branded with multiple marks: the EPS star and a specific herd number on the shoulder, with an individual pony number on the flank.

In recent years, some owners have been searching for an alternative to branding. In 2005, after pressure from members, the EPS committee accepted the combined use of microchipping, passport silhouettes and hair DNA samples as sufficient methods of identification; since that time many breeders have stopped hot branding their ponies.

In order to examine the necessity for hot branding it is important to consider four things: the purpose of branding, the alternatives available, the efficacy and welfare implications of each and how the law currently views hot branding in equines.

The Purpose of Hot Branding
Since the establishment of the EPS in the early 1920’s, hot branding has been used as a cheap, relatively easy method of making permanent identifying marks. Until the 1950’s, most Exmoor ponies lived as free ranging animals on the upland moors of Devon and Somerset [in the UK]. Multiple herds shared the same area for grazing and the ponies were not separated for most of the year. Brands were used to aid identification at inspection time to split the herds from one another. Currently there are very few free ranging ponies on Exmoor with most breeders in the UK keeping relatively small herds, but hot branding has continued as a 'tradition'.

Branding is done at the time of inspection, when foals are around 5 months old. Mares and foals are rounded up and separated and each foal is carefully examined to see if it meets the breed standard. If the foal passes inspection, the owner has the option for it to be hot branded.

Hot branding requires strong restraint of the animal – usually two people pressing it up to a fence or wall and another person controlling the head. The mark is made by heating up branding irons with a gas burner until they are red hot, then pressing the iron onto the skin of the pony. Branding is performed without any anaesthesia by an EPS inspector who is not required to have undergone any veterinary training. The theory is that hair will not grow back over the branded area, leaving a distinguishable mark. Each part of the mark requires a separate iron, so this action can be repeated up to 5 times on the one foal. Sometimes the hair over the area to be branded is clipped or shaved before applying the irons.

Because Exmoors can look quite similar, some people deem brands necessary to be able to distinguish individual animals. However, others practising a higher standard of animal husbandry maintain that Exmoors do not look any more like each other than other British Native breeds such as Fell ponies. For example student Trek Leaders of the Edinburgh University Exmoor Pony Trekking Section (the Dick vet trekking ponies) are expected to be able to individually identify between 17 and 30 ponies from a distance by becoming familiar with their own conformational characteristics, colouring etc, without using brands as an aid. Some people, most of whom are unaware of what hot branding entails, emphasise the importance of the traditional look of branded ponies; especially in the show ring where spectators can see what herd (and therefore breeder) the pony belongs to.

Alternative Methods of Identification
1. Freeze branding causes white hair to replace pigmented hair, the irons are chilled to very low temperatures to cause deep tissue damage9. As it is part of the breed standard for Exmoor ponies to have no white hairs, freeze branding is not especially encouraged.
2. The passport silhouette is currently used as the primary means of identification for most horses and ponies in the UK. On the silhouette all distinguishing marks (whorls, white hairs etc) are indicated; with at least five marks required in order to try and differentiate between individual animals. This is difficult to achieve in breeds without any white markings, like Exmoors.
3. The most reliable form of permanent identification is microchipping. This involves the insertion of a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) into the nuchal ligament on the left side of the animal via a needle. This must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. From the 1st of July 2009 all foals born should be micro chipped to comply with EU regulations.
4. DNA samples are very reliable (commonly quoted as over 99.99% accuracy). They are obtained by plucking of hair from the mane or tail of the pony. Currently many breed societies are using DNA sampling to identify individual animals and to confirm parentage. Currently they are less used because of the higher cost compared to other methods – approximately £25 per animal (ie £75 for the foal and both parents).

Despite the fact that microchipping alone is a sufficient method of identification, the EPS committee are still recommending that animals are branded in addition to the last three identification procedures carried out on them and certified by a Veterinary Surgeon. It is interesting to note that the EPS accept branding as a sole method of identification, but not microchipping. Some members of the EPS are seeking a derogation order so that their ponies do not have to be micro chipped. They have cited handling issues and cost as reasons for this. However, in the case of Exmoor ponies, all are rounded up for inspection and branding at 5 months of age. There is no reason why a microchip can’t be inserted at that time. The cost is a relatively small amount of money (approximately £6 per microchip, plus a call-out charge and fee for the vet’s time split between the animals) which should not stand in the way of such an important welfare tool.

Efficacy and Welfare Implications
The two main reasons why some breeders have been looking for alternatives to branding are welfare concerns and reliability issues. The purpose of hot branding is to be able to identify animals from a distance, but in reality this is very rarely, if ever, achieved. The scarring of tissue is not predictable and this means numbers are often impossible to read even when standing very close to the pony – especially differentiating between similar digits such as 5 and 6; 1 and 7; or 6, 8 and 0.

An added complication is that Exmoors grow a rather impressive winter coat, which obscures the brands. This means marks can only be seen for a couple of months out of the year and in some particularly hairy ponies are hard to read all year round. It has been suggested that if necessary to subsequently identify a branded animal, the area of hair over the brand can be clipped, making it more readable. However, as the purpose of branding is to allow identification from a distance and thus minimise handling of “wild” ponies, this is self-defeating.

Only 70% of ponies in a show-ring had readable brands in a survey performed by veterinary students on Exmoor in the 1990s. This was done in the summer, from quite a close distance in stationary animals, when the brands should have been at their clearest. With such poor efficacy in these animals, it is clear that in flighty moor-living animals with any semblance of a winter coat it would be impossible to read brands with accuracy.

External marks, such as hot and freeze branding, carry the potential to be tampered with. By re-branding, numbers can be changed making the animal impossible to identify. To be certain of an animal’s identity it is imperative to use a method that can not be tampered with.

The welfare implications of hot branding are a matter of controversial debate. Handling is often stressful for young foals, and the amount of restraint needed to brand the animal with all the required marks prolongs the amount of time the foal is subjected to this stress. The foals usually have a violent reaction to the pain inflicted by branding7 – they often leap, rear, buck, kick, or collapse to the floor. For many foals this is their first experience of being handled, and it is likely that the prolonged and more painful nature of inspections with brandings, as opposed to microchipping alone, will make subsequent attempts to handle these ponies more difficult.2 This adverse affect on behaviour and performance occurs in other animals, for example behaviour in the parlour and milk yield of a heifer that has had an assisted calving leading to a torn vagina compared to a heifer that has had a (less painful) episiotomy or caesarean.

In terms of procedures commonly carried out by veterinary surgeons, branding is comparable to tail docking in dogs (illegal in Scotland due to welfare concerns; strictly regulated in England and Wales); dehorning in cattle (which by law requires anaesthesia); and “firing” of horses (considered an unethical procedure by the RCVS due to welfare concerns, and only ever performed by qualified veterinary surgeons with the use of local or general anaesthesia, followed by several days analgesia).1, 10 Hot branding in cattle is now illegal in the United Kingdom because of welfare implications; clearly hot branding is as painful for ponies as it is for cattle.

Currently Quality Control of hot branding is non-existent. Hot branding can be performed by anyone, without any form of training in place. A major issue is variation in branding technique, as currently there is no established Standard Operating Procedure. Some branders apply the iron to the animal correctly, ie for under 3 seconds, whilst others hold it on for over 20 seconds causing significant tissue damage. Because of the lack of regulation, the deficiency of Health and Safety provisions both for people and ponies can be astounding. Gas burners and hot irons lying in straw pens, narrow and dark slippery alleyways, restraining foals by brute force, and major injuries to handlers from panic-stricken animals are commonplace.

Microchipping is commonly practised in the equine world, most notably in Thoroughbreds, because it offers certain advantages: it is tamper proof, the number is not affected by subsequent growth of the animal or by seasonal coat length, and the number is linked to a database which can be used in case of theft. There is a failure rate of well under 0.01%, and if properly checked before and after insertion there should be few problems. Rarely chips may migrate away from the nuchal ligament, but they can be located by the scanner or show up on X-rays.

How the Law views hot branding
Hot branding in equines has possibly been overlooked by government and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The procedure is viewed by law as a mutilation (described by the Animal Welfare Act 20061 as “interference with sensitive tissues”).

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct (2008)11 ensures that veterinary surgeons must “not cause any patient to suffer: by carrying out any unnecessary mutilation; by excessive restraint or discipline; or by failing to maintain adequate pain control and relief of suffering”. However, the necessity of hot branding is questionable; the procedure requires severe restraint, causing considerable distress to foals; and no effort is made to control pain. Under Part 1-I, Your responsibilities in relation to the treatment of animals by non-veterinary surgeons, there is no mention of hot branding of equines. Consequently many veterinary surgeons are unaware that this practice continues.

In England and Wales hot branding of equines is referred to in The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) Regulations7. Under Section Section 3 non-vets may perform hot branding, provided that the procedure is carried out “in such a way as to minimise the pain and suffering it causes to the animal”, “in hygienic conditions”, and “in accordance with good practice”. In regards to hot branding all three of these stipulations may be broached.

In Scotland the hot branding of equine species is illegal.

Conclusions
From July 2009 all horses and ponies in the E.U. should be micro chipped to provide a definite and secure method of identification. The EPS also requires a silhouette and DNA sample to be taken from registered Exmoors if they are micro chipped, giving another two acceptable methods of identification. The EPS still recommends branding as a “fast, safe, cheap” method of identification to breeders; however now that microchipping has become mandatory, branding can no longer be seen as a “cheap alternative”.

The way that most Exmoors are kept is far removed from being “wild” feral ponies and it is not really necessary to have to identify them from a distance. For those ponies that are living “wild” on Exmoor, branding makes more sense but is still very inefficient – it is very easy to mistake one pony for another if you rely solely on the numbers. Now that alternative methods of identification are available, Exmoor pony breeders and buyers should consider whether or not the pain and stress caused by branding is worth the rather poor aesthetic benefit of having a number stamped on a pony. Veterinary Surgeons should take note of this procedure, and decide if it is acceptable for it to continue being performed in the same way by untrained laypeople. It is extremely important that the profession is aware of practices surrounding British Native ponies, and that welfare is not overlooked because of their low monetary value and the insular nature of many breed societies.


Miriam Geraghty

References


1. The Animal Welfare Act 2006

2. “Behavior of Cattle during Hot-Iron and Freeze Branding and the Effects on Subsequent Handling Ease”
Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S., Stookey, J.M., Welford, R.
Dept. Herd Med. and Theriogenology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sask. S7N 0W0, Canada

3 “The Biology of Animal Stress – basic principles and implications for animal welfare”,
Toates and Wolfle,
CABI Publishing

3. “Comparison of image analysis, exertion force, and behavior measurements for use in the assessment of beef cattle responses to hot-iron and freeze branding”
K. S. Schwartzkopf-Genswein et al,
Journal of Animal Science, Vol 76, Issue 4 972-979

4. “Distress in Animals: Is it Fear, Pain or Physical Stress?”
Temple Grandin and Mark Deesing American Board of Veterinary Practitioners - Symposium 2002
May 17, 2002, Manhattan Beach, California
Special Session
Pain, Stress, Distress and Fear
Emerging Concepts and Strategies in Veterinary Medicine

5. “Effect of freeze vs hot branding on the heart rate of horses”.
M Kapron´ et al Akademia Rolnicza w Lublinia,
Instytut Hodowli i Technologii Produkcji Zwierzecej, Zakad Hodlowli Koni, ul.
Akademicka 13, 20-950 Lublin, Poland.

6. Freeze-branding of cattle, dogs, and cats for identification.
Farrell, R.K., Koger, L.M., Winward, L.D.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Volume 149, Issue 6, 15 September 1966, Pages 745-752

7 The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007

8 “Pain and distress in Agricultural animals”,
Wendy J Underwood,
JAVMA, Vol 221, no 2, July 15, 2002

9 “Pain in farm animals – assessment and management “,
Trojacanec et al

10The Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007

11 The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2008

LINK to related thread in the Equine Tourism Forum: MY NERVOUS EXMOOR PONY

May 2012: Update to this article, at the request of the author:
"Despite the fact that microchipping alone is a sufficient method of identification, the EPS committee are still recommending that animals are branded in addition to the last three identification procedures carried out on them and certified by a Veterinary Surgeon. It is interesting to note that the EPS accept branding as a sole method of identification, but not microchipping."


...Since this article was first published, the Exmoor Pony Society now accepts micro-chipping as a sole method of identification, if the breeder chooses. However, the EPS still allows hot branding to be used on domestic and 'in ground' Exmoor ponies, as well as semi-feral ponies and it is now being questioned as to whether this contravenes the Permitted Mutilations Procedures (2007) (Animal Welfare Act 2006). The EPS also still requires the Exmoor Pony Star brand to be used if a breeder chooses to hot brand, and this mark neither identifies a herd or an individual pony. A vote to cease use of the Exmoor Pony Star brand was not carried at the 2012 EPS AGM and a vote was taken to postpone the vote on ceasing use of the Star brand until the 2013 AGM. So currently,despite grave concerns over both the welfare and rules regarding the use of this brand, it is still currently in use. We will keep you updated on this situation. Equine Tourism


#3 Miriam

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:54 PM

I think this is a big leap forward for equine welfare. These are some pretty big players now starting to take notice of hot branding. I know that many vets are unaware that this procedure is even carried out, and like hot firing it certainly would be frowned upon by many veterinary professionals.

Really hot branding has remained in the Native pony world only because it was forgotten by the law - this method of identification has been banned in cattle for years. Now breeders and owners recognise the need for new more reliable methods of identification the law is starting to catch up, with the Scottish Government banning hot branding in all equines in Scotland.

As with all new rules to do with advancing animal welfare there is much controversy surrounding this subject. While some people defend the hot branding of Exmoors purely because they dislike change, advocate tradition, or do not realise the level of pain and the long-term consequences, there are others who use branding as a management tool and are worried about the increased publicity and attention from groups such as BEVA and the RSPCA that may result in a UK-wide ban.

Research like this is the first step to overcoming this problem, and hopefully more will be carried out in to other methods of visual identification. It is especially important for Exmoor pony enthusiasts to think carefully about branding, and to support Moorland breeders through the change in idea that maybe hot branding is not necessary. As Dawn says, most Moorland breeders are far more concerned that their pony has a good home to go to than about the traditions associated with hot branding - like most farmers they are sensible, practical people! Having experienced both branding and non-branding inspections with unhandled foals I can safely say that non-branding inspections are much less fraught and stressful and much, MUCH quicker, so really it is in the best interests of the farmer to accept any requests to miss out a foal or two. :)

#4 Dawn Westcott

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 08:04 AM

Hot Branding Exmoor Ponies
There will be much discussion on this topic, I'm sure. Here are some initial thoughts:-

Why is it felt that Hot Branding is needed?
The visual identification of which herd a free-living moorland pony comes from is extremely important. If herds run in an area together, or get mixed up through gates being left open, or boundaries breached, and an accident occurs, then the herd owner needs to be contacted immediately. (For example, last year, a mare was hit by a car and killed on Porlock Hill, leaving a distressed foal). Whether or not the herd owner can do anything, they do need to know what has happened, even if it just to make arrangements to dispose of the carcass.

The ponies are wild and can't easily be caught and handled, and it is therefore difficult to read the microchip. Of course, if a pony is incapacitated, the microchip can be easily read. However, there may be a critical delay in obtaining a microchip reader, when someone could have called the herd owner. It could be the case that the person finding the pony would not understand the pony's 'herd owner symbol' or brand, but usually, it's possible to telephone the Exmoor Pony Society or a local Exmoor pony representative, and describe the brand/mark, so that the herd owner can be contacted. All the herd owner needs to know at this point is that the pony belongs to his herd. The microchip can be read to later identify the individual pony, if necessary.

BUT: What is unacceptable about the current Exmoor pony management system, is that three hot brands are currently used on each pony (an Exmoor pony Star; a herd number and the individual pony number) - and the process is painful and distressing for the pony.

The importance of Visual ID for the Moorland Herds:
However, the importance of a visual identification mark for the free-living ponies should not be underestimated. And if hot branding is stopped, something needs to be put in place to ensure that the moorland herd owners can tell which herd a pony is from. Apparently, it is currently not possible to use a Long Range Microchip reader, as nothing suitable exists. It is felt that the ponies can not be held still enough for long enough, as foals, to use Freeze-Marking. Ear Tags are painful and disfiguring and illegal for use in equines. This leave the use of Collars, Paint-Marking (like sheep and cattle), Mane or Tail cutting, etc, none of which are currently considered to provide the perfect solution. Certainly, the use of one 'Angle Brand' (A symbol like an arrow head used at a different angle for each herd - more info here) to identify the herd of the pony, would be preferable to three individual brands.

BUT: Alternative methods of ID should and must be researched and tested to find an acceptable and suitable solution, because this is no reason to continue the painful and distressing process of multiple Hot Branding of Moorland (or in ground) ponies.

Hot Branding Causes Behavioural Issues in Exmoors - Why?
BBC Countryfile
featured a repeat of Adam Henson's Exmoor pony herd on Sunday and the effects of the current management and identification system were articulated very well by Kelly Marks, of Intelligent Horsemanship (www.montyroberts.co.uk). It was this episode that caused a pivotal change in Adam Henson's pony management system, when he realised the unnecessary damage to Exmoor's confidence, physical wellbeing and ability to trust humans, that occurs when they are hot branded three times as newly weaned foals. He no longer hot brands his herd, and relies instead on the statutory microchip for individual identification.

Exmoors have a reputation for being difficult and contrary to handle. But how much of this is due to the way they are handled? In the current management system, their first contact with humans is often the day they are gathered in as a herd, weaned abruptly from their mothers, forcibly restrained and hot branded three times (twice on the shoulder and once on the flank - with three separate hot brands all applied one after the other, with no pain relief). It is widely felt that undergoing this process negatively affects the foal, who shows its distress in varying degrees (depending on its ability to 'cope'), in both its attitude to humans, and to whatever it encounters during its life, for the rest of its life.

Does Hot Branding Hurt?
If you're wondering whether hot branding does actually hurt a foal, first, watch how sensitive a horse's skin is when a fly lands on it, and secondly, go and stick your finger on a hot oven shelf for a couple of seconds and imagine that pain on your shoulder and backside magnified in size by a considerable amount - applied to you when you were a toddler, while people forcibly held you. Exmoor ponies currently have a 'star' or 'diamond' hot branded onto their shoulder (this is a general symbol to show they are an Exmoor pony...and is surely superfluous now?) Then there is a herd number below the star - which can run to three large numbers, and sometimes, an 'H'. and finally, they have an individual pony number hot branded onto their flank.

Is there a Difference between Branded and Unbranded Exmoor Ponies?
There is a striking difference in the behaviour and confidence of unbranded, sensitively handled Exmoors, compared to forcefully restrained, hot branded ones. Here, we have both branded and unbranded ponies in our herd. We have the opportunity to observe the behaviour of branded moorbred ponies and unbranded homebred ponies, as well as an unbranded moorbred pony (Penelope Pitstop - who was handled using positive, trust-based methods of horsemanship from the moment she left the moor - See this video of Penelope playing on a Horse Agility course at liberty, just 7 weeks after leaving the moor. She had offered this connection with us with very short sessions (sometimes only 5 or 10 minutes a day of gentle handling: ).

http://youtu.be/yHVlsvuYuJ0

The loveliest thing about working with unbranded Exmoors is the absence of a sense of resentment and nervouseness of 'what's going to happen', that we notice in all of our branded ones. The unbranded ponies have all the usual inherent flight instincts of normal horses, but without that 'edge' of fear or even anger that a hot branded Exmoor can carry, to varying degrees, for its entire life. There is a different look in their eyes and a natural curiosity and innocence. It does mean that, by being less fearful, they can be more challenging in certain aspects of training, but in a very good way, which is satisfying to work with.

Hopefully as more owners and breeders choose not to hot brand, the Exmoor pony will be able to show its true, delightful, intelligent character, without the handicap of undue trauma and pain many of them currently suffer as foals.

HOW TO BUY AN UNBRANDED EXMOOR PONY FOAL

MOORLAND FOALS: If you're thinking of buying an Exmoor foal this autumn, you can ask to visit the Moorland Breeders at gathering time (when they bring the herds in and separate the foals) - and if you see a foal you'd like, you can ask that it is not hot branded. Most will be perfectly happy to sell you a microchipped foal, and will be delighted that the foal is off to a good, understanding home. Exmoor pony foals are normally branded at their Inspection, which is usually a couple of days after the gathering.

BUYING FOALS FROM IN GROUND, DOMESTIC HERDS
Again, all you need to do is visit the foal before it is inspected in the autumn/winter, and ask for it not to be hot branded. Foals are hot branded when they're Inspected and Registered in the Stud Book, unless it has been agreed that they will be mico-chipped only.

Exmoor Pony Society Rules on the ID of Exmoor Ponies:
The Exmoor Pony Society accepts that Exmoor ponies can be hot branded or micro-chipped only, and as long as they pass the physical Inspection, they can be fully registerd and entered into the Stud book - without having to be hot branded.

Can Hot Brands be Easily Read Anyway and are they an effective form of Individual Identification?

These are some examples of hot brands on mature Exmoor ponies


This is the individual pony number brand of a 7 year old male, with a summer coat (the time the visual hot brand should be most easily read):
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This is the individual pony number hot brand of a 14 year old female - with a summer coat:
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This is an example of the Exmoor Pony Star brand, with the herd number underneath, showing the damage through the 'slipping' of the hot brand to the herd number:
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This is the brand of the 4 year old mare, whose brand is shown as a three year old in the introductory post of this thread. The brand is less inflamed, but this is through daily care and ensuring the mare is not exposed to hot sunlight on very hot days. Surely, for a pony breed that is supposed to live as naturally as possible, this is not an acceptable form of ID for her? Especially as she has a three-digit pony number :mellow:
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"Two professors are walking towards each other along a narrow path. One professor stands firm and says 'I never make way for fools.' The other professor stands aside and says, 'I always make way for fools.' "

#5 Equine Tourism

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 04:03 PM

Here is the official statement from the RSPCA. They are publishing the full report at the end of September:

The Hot Branding and Microchip Implantation of Horses and Ponies

In 2010 the RSPCA commissioned an independent report into The Hot Branding and Microchip Implantation of Horses and Ponies by the independent equine welfare expert Dr Mark J Kennedy, who is at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.

The report used direct observation of moorland ponies being hot branded and microchipped, a review of the scientific literature and thorough consultation with people who are involved in looking after moorland ponies, other experts such as vets and other industry stakeholders.

Dr Kennedy concluded that the practice of hot branding should end.

The report highlighted that:


— Hot branding of horses and ponies is likely to cause significant pain and suffering.

— The suffering caused by hot branding is unnecessary, because there are effective alternative means of identification available which cause less suffering.

Based on the report’s recommendations, the RSPCA advises owners of horses and ponies should have them microchipped as this is likely to be the least painful method of permanent identification of equines.

If owners are concerned about the possibility of theft, they may consider freeze marking, but should be aware that it causes some pain and suffering.

Owners of moorland ponies should have them microchipped and use a collar with a permanent numerical, alphabetical or symbolic marking if they require visible identification.

Further information:
— Microchipping is a legal requirement for all horses and ponies born after 1 July 2009 (with a very few specific exceptions for moorland ponies in designated areas). Some breed societies and Commoners’associations subsidise this cost.

— Freeze marking involves a cold branding iron being held on the skin for 7-10 seconds in dark horses to make a white mark, or 12-15 in lighter horses to destroy the hair growth follicles and make a bald mark.

— Hot branding involves the application of a very hot iron to the skin for several seconds or until the hide turns a light tan colour. Some breed societies still insist on hot branding.

— Ear tagging, notching and splitting are illegal.

www.rspca.org.uk

#6 Heidi

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 08:31 PM

This is the best news I have heard in a long while. I am amazed it has taken so long for people to see sense.

#7 Equine Tourism

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 04:00 PM

The British Horse Society Welfare Department has issued this statement on Hot Branding:

The BHS supports hot branding ban

The British Horse Society has expressed its full support of the Scottish Government’s proposal to ban hot branding.


Acknowledging that further research on physical and mental stressors would be useful, in matters of equine welfare the BHS prefers the precautionary principle: “If we do not know whether or not an act is injurious to the overall detriment of the welfare of a horse, but have good reason to believe it may be, then for the horses’ sake we will assume that the act is injurious until the contrary is proved.” In the case of hot branding the BHS believe there is little doubt that the application of hot irons to an animal causes unjustifiable pain.

The BHS notes that the arguments in favour of hot branding for the purposes of identification are weakened by the limitations of the method: a brand may be difficult to read from a distance and can be obscured by the thick winter coat grown by horses during the winter. On the other hand, a microchip implanted in the nuchal ligament offers definitive identification, with the insertion of such microchips perceived to be less of a physical stressor than the process of hot branding.

Graham Cory, British Horse Society Chief Executive, said “Whereas some will point to the practical difficulties inherent in other methods of identification, The British Horse Society cannot condone a practice which elevates the convenience of the owner to a position above the welfare of the horse.”

For further information and pictures, please contact: Alison Coleman, The British Horse Society, 01926 707737 or a.coleman@bhs.org.uk

The BHS’s response to the consultation is as follows:

“The British Horse Society is grateful for the opportunity to comment on the proposal to outlaw the hot branding of equidae in Scotland.

“The British Horse Society is in full support of the Scottish Government’s proposal to rescind the Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 with reference to the hot branding of horses. We welcome the suggestion that the provision to issue specific authorisations allowing hot branding be removed from statute.

“It is essential that horses can be accurately identified for a number of welfare reasons and in order that animals of proven genetic merit can be singled out for breeding purposes. A number of breed societies advocate hot branding to identify valuable bloodlines and the BHS fully recognises the importance of responsible breeding from correct stock. However, the Society considers that there are other means by which identification can be achieved.

“In recent times the practice of hot branding has received increased attention due to its implications for equine welfare. Although there has been little scientific research conducted into hot branding there can be little doubt that the application of hot irons to an animal causes pain. It is difficult to justify the intentional inflicting of pain to any animal for purposes other than essential veterinary treatment. The BHS does not consider accurate identification to be a sufficient justification for causing pain.

“The arguments in favour of hot branding for the purposes of identification are weakened by the limitations of the method: a brand may be difficult to read from a distance and can be obscured by the thick winter coat grown by horses during the winter.

“There are a number of alternatives to hot branding that may be considered more humane. A microchip implanted in the nuchal ligament offers definitive identification, with the insertion of such microchips perceived to be less of a physical stressor than the process of hot branding. Whereas the reading of microchips currently necessitates a handler being in close proximity to the horse – a potential problem when it comes to dealing with feral animals – the fact that Scotland is not the home to any truly feral equine populations this is not a legitimate reason to continue to permit hot branding in Scotland.

“The British Veterinary Association has been unequivocal in its stance on hot branding with the British Equine Veterinary Association also speaking out to decry the practice. The BHS recognises the value of professional veterinary opinion on this issue and is pleased to align itself with the BVA and BEVA. In summary, the British Horse Society is opposed to the practice of hot branding of equidae and supports the Scottish Government’s proposal to cease the issuing of specific authorisations.“

For more information, please visit this link at www.bhs.org.uk

LINK TO BHS HOT BRANDING STATEMENT

LINK TO THE EXMOOR PONY HOT BRANDING DISCUSSION THREAD IN OUR FORUMS

#8 Equine Tourism

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 04:04 PM

The British Equine Veterinary Association - Press Release regarding BEVA's position on Hot Branding

BEVA Position Statement on Hot Branding of Horses and Ponies


Under the Equine Identification Regulation 504/2008 all foals born after 1st July 2009 will have to
have a microchip inserted as a means of identification. Alternative methods of identification can be
used, but only if they give the same scientific guarantees as a microchip. BEVA do not believe that
hot branding offers the same scientific guarantees as a microchip and cannot 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. BEVA
believe that the continued use of hot branding as a means of identifying certain breeds is unacceptable
and should be phased out on welfare grounds.

Link to BEVA press release
(David Dugdale, March 2009)


#9 Miriam

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 08:39 PM

I think one of the biggest issused is that many Exmoor pony owners and even breeders are unaware that there is a choice about their pony being branded. I have been to inspections "up country" (tagging along as a helpful pair of hands with an inspector) where owners have been asked "do you want us to brand the foal?" and their response is "oh, do we not have to?". Now the wording on the info sent out by EPS does state that branding is not manditory, but that it is still recommended by the EPS for identification purposes. Now that this RSPCA report has been released I hope that this wording will be changed, I didnt see the info sent out to Scottish breeders this year but I assume it must read very differently!

I must say I was really unpleasantly surprised when I visited the Moorland Mousie Trust (MMT) on a visit to Exmoor last year, wherupon I overheard a visitor (obviously new to Exmoor ponies) ask what the marks (brands) were, only to be told by a person in a MMT uniform that they were hot brands, and that they were branded on all the ponies because they are wild animals and need to be identified for their safety, and that the brands are quick and not painful. Now, it might just have been an unlucky coincidence that I overheard a conversation that is very unusual, but really it would help for some mention of the alternative.

It is excellent that there are all these reports and independent opinions coming from well respected external sources, but it's about time that a change in view came from within the society. People seem nervous about asking for a foal not to be branded, and even of the consequences of not branding ponies within the show ring, but I think now there is plenty of evidence that this is unfounded and we should be starting to use branding only as a management tool where it is really needed (in free-ranging herds of feral/unhandled ponies) and look for an alternative to use as soon as possible.

#10 Miriam

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 08:59 PM

There was a video which was part of the information that the Scottish Government used to review the decision about banning hot branding. The pony there is a well-handled yearling who was used to people handling her and used to that environment, however you can still see her reaction to repeated painful stimulous. It also shows the low standards of health and safety, the low standards of applying brands (eg repeated aplication of the iron on the shoulder after it has cooled - at that temperature it is hot enough to cause pain but not scarring), and gives an idea of the noise and general melee that is often present.

Still up on the EPS website is their "counter" to that video - I find it very dissapointing that there is no mention that many breeders and owners are looking to have an alternative introduced and would like to see branding used only in the most necessary of cases, and with only one brand being applied. It also shows none of the initial restraint and handling of the pony (eg for the unnecessary clipping, of hair) or its expression/reaction to the branding as it is obscured by handlers. The swaying reaction could indicate exhaustion or sensory overload, rather than calmly accepting the brand.
http://www.exmoorpon...t_branding.html

Styill, both are only one-off examples and some ponies will tolerate brands being applied without any visible reaction. However, does this mean that it is ok to do something painful, just because we cant always instantly see the consequences?

#11 Alyson

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 09:10 PM

It's good to hear about the report findings and it gives weight to the argument for not hot branding which does seem to be an outdated practice which causes unnecessary suffering to the ponies. It would be good to think that this practice will now be less favourable as people realise that there are viable alternatives.

#12 Julia

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 07:49 PM

the part about hotbranding i REALLY don't understand is how it helps to identify ponies from a distance! sorry, but I am yet to be able to reliably read ANY numbers on any conservation ponies I have seen thus far, even when relatively close! on my own pony, it is not possible to see ANY of her numbers unless she's in her summer coat and the light is particularly great, certainly NOT unless you're less than a foot away from her! so .... what is the point?? i am very glad to see that the RPSCA and the BHS are now on board!

re: branding being 'traditional' - all sorts of very bad things are traditional - and people stopped doing them when they realised they weren't needed.

#13 Epona

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 09:09 AM

To put it in context, this is the list of punishments, as written by Tim Lambert in which Branding appears. I give you the link to the website for full descriptions below, but you will see the company hot branding shares with other painful practices. Most of them outlawed

http://www.localhistories.org/pun.html

Does it hurt?
http://youtu.be/jz5xXcb2V8w

Banishment
Bastinado, Beating on the soles of the feet with a stick
Beheading
Birching, beating with birch twigs
Boiling Alive
Branding, Branding with red-hot irons is an ancient punishment. Branding was abolished in 1829.
Breaking on the wheel
Burning
Cactus Needles
Cane
Cangue, a wooden board locked around the prisoners neck
Cold Shower
Crank
Crucifixion
Drowning
Ducking Stool
Dunce's Cap
Electric Chair
Fines
Firing Squad
Flogging
Garrotting
Gas Chamber
Grampussing
Guillotine
Hanging
Hanging, drawing and quartering
Horse, The prisoner was made to sit on a wooden 'horse' with his legs either side and his arms tied behind his back with weights tied to the legs.
Hulks, using old ships as prisons
Inhalation of Smoke
Jougs
Keel Hauling
Lethal Injection
Lock-up
Mutilation
Oubliette
Picket or Piquet
Picking Oakum
Pillory and Stocks
Poison
Pressing
Prison
Public Executions
Ruler
Scold's Bridle
Slavery
Slipper
Stoning
Strap
Sweatbox
Tawse
Transportation
Treadmill
Whirligig
Wooden Spoon
'She who is like a mare.'

#14 Equine Tourism

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 09:27 AM

Blue Cross supports the Scottish Parliament ban on hot branding horses

The Blue Cross strongly supports the new regulations that will be laid in the Scottish Parliament in September to remove the exemption which allows the hot branding of equines to take place.

Steve Goody, director of external affairs for The Blue Cross comments: "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.

Press Release issued: 13 August 2010

http://www.epolitix....tes/blue-cross/


The British Veterinary Assocation (BVA) Opposes the Use of Hot Branding on Equines

http://www.bva.co.uk...dvice/1625.aspx

From the BVA Website, at the above link:

Hot branding of equines
On this page you can find out more about the British Veterinary Association view on the hot branding of horses and ponies.

Background
Under the EU Equine Identification Regulation 504/2008 all foals born after 1st July 2009 will have to have a microchip inserted as a means of identification. In addition all equidae sold or taken to slaughter must have a passport linked to its microchip. Alternative methods of identification can be used, but only if they give the same scientific guarantees as a microchip.

In principle we oppose hot branding as a method of indentifying horses and ponies.

Legislation
In December 2009 the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) launched a consultation on the hot branding of equines in Scotland
in August 2010 the Scottish Government announced that they would be introducing legislation to ban the hot branding of equines

BVA Policiy Document on Hot Branding states:

HOT BRANDING OF HORSES AND PONIES

Under the Equine Identification Regulation 504/2008 all foals born after 1st July 2009 will have to have a microchip inserted as a means of identification. In addition all equidae sold or taken to slaughter must have a passport linked to its microchip. Alternative methods of identification can be used, but only if they give the same scientific guarantees as a microchip.
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.

Ends

#15 Miriam

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 09:35 AM

Branding as a punishment is different to branding being used for identification purposes. We do lots of things to animls for management purposes that are painful, uncomfortable, or potentially frightening to the animal (eg castration, microchipping, dehorning of cattle, ear tagging farm animals), however these all have clear beneficial aims to ensure either animal or human safety and where appropriate are carried out under some form of analgesia. For the more severe mutilations are only carried out by skilled, trained people. Many of the routine procedures carried out on animals could be listed on a "toture" list, but I would very much disagree that I am torturing animals when I perform them under the appropriate instruction and with analgesia or anaesthesia!

I do agree, though, that "tradition" is never a reason to carry on something. I also agree that the REPEATED application of brands is totally unnecessary and I might conceed to put that on to a "torture" list - especially as no pain relief (or protection against tetanus or infection from the open wounds left by the irons) is given to these foals.

However, I don't think anybody brands ponies because they want to torture them, and it helps to recognise the reasons behind branding and why it was developed. For example the Youtube video posted was originally filmed (before microchipping was recognised by the EPS as acceptable identification) to show the benefits of hot branding over freeze branding in relatively unhandled ponies - it is much quicker and safer to apply. I think it is interesting that the farmer in question now uses the same footage to illustrate the flaws in hot branding, and it just goes to show that some people are willing to change with the times.

The use of brands for identification purposes is a very interesting one, and raises several questions:
1 - in what situation do we need to identify Exmoor ponies from a distance?
2 - currently is EVERY brand that is applied to a pony solely for identification purposes?
3 - for non-free-ranging (ie moorland) herds, if they are under good animal management (eg each animal checked every day), is it possible to learn to recognise individual animals from a distance without a visual identifier?
4 - How effective are hot brands at identifying animals? Does the winter coat ever obscure brands? Does natural scarring ever change what a number could be? Can you tell 100% of the time what a number is?
5 - If you can't tell 100% of the time, is it acceptable? If a 3 could possibly be an 8 how do you tell which it is?
6 - Are there better methods corrently available? If not are there any being researched, or in development?

I would be interested to hear thoughts on all of these points :)




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