A row has broken out over plans to ban horses from a north-east agricultural show – unless they have been given a vaccination at least the week before.
The New Deer Show is one of the north-east’s biggest farming shows, with livestock competitions, stalls and machinery displays bringing in the crowds.
But following an outbreak of equine flu in Cheshire earlier this year, the organising committee has announced they want all horses, ponies and donkeys to be vaccinated at least the week before they enter the showground this summer.
They will be carrying out random horse passport checks, and have warned anyone without the correct documentation will be asked to leave the arena immediately.
Competitors have reacted with fury, accusing the committee of overreacting and putting the future of the show at risk.
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And one member of the committee has now quit over the plans.
The group is following veterinary guidelines from the British Horse Racing Association following an outbreak of equine flu in February which shut down racing in the UK for six days.
In a statement, they said they had a responsibility to “safeguard” the welfare of those taking part.
But Harry Sleigh, a committee member and a regular Shetland pony competitor, fears people will abandon the show due to the high cost of the injections.
Mr Sleigh, who is based in Fyvie, has now resigned from the committee over the decision.
He said: “I think New Deer Show have jumped the gun.
“I understand that performance horses that travel all over the country need vaccinated for flu, which is fair enough.
“If the agricultural industry shows follow this, it will have a huge downturn in native pony entries.
“The last recorded case of equine flu was in Fife and there hasn’t been a single case in the north of Scotland.
“It is a very emotive subject and people might criticise my view, but I don’t think the flu is that big an issue for shows.
“A lot of people with animals will stop going to shows. It will have a detrimental effect on their entries and the shows will struggle to survive and we will lose shows.”
Macduff-based horse breeder Caroline Ironside said that for some owners, asking for the vaccinations is a step too far.
She said: “New Deer put the proposal out there and there was uproar about it. Many people who go to these shows will either not have vaccinated their horses or the horses are done on an annual basis, and doing it every six months may seem as overkill to some people – especially for a local show.”
The New Deer Show announced the requirements on their official Facebook page and people were quick to slam the decision.
Kerri Yule wrote: “Why are we to follow the rules of British Horse Racing for an agricultural show? Last time I looked at my horses neither were eligible to race.”
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Sarah Finnie said it would mean that the number of equine entries would fall and the regulars going along would be left “disappointed” as a result.
Last night, the New Deer Show committee said it has been left with “no choice” but to introduce the new rules.
A statement from the group said: “It is common practice for horse competitions to require horses participating to be vaccinated against equine flu.
“Given that equine flu is a potentially very serious condition and there have been confirmed cases in Scotland, the committee had no choice than to require horses participating in New Deer Show to be up to date with their flu vaccinations.
“We have a responsibility to safe guard, to the best of our ability, the welfare of the horses participating in our show. We can only apologise if this causes inconvenience to some of our exhibitors. The committee will continue to monitor the situation and liaise with our vets accordingly.”
The New Deer Show takes place at Craigieford Park on July 20 and 21.