HORSE trading has been banned from the Lammas Fair in Ballycastle, writes Nevin Farrell.
Horse dealing has been a regular feature at the Fair stretching back generations but Moyle Council in Ballycastle last night (Monday March 26) agreed equine sales will be prohibited at this year’s event.
The ban follows concerns about animal welfare.
Government officials, police and animal charities have all been involved in checks on horses at the Fair in recent years.
The Fairhill area of Ballycastle has been synonymous with horse trading during the Lammas Fair and many people regard the horse dealing as one of the Fair’s most traditional aspects.
In recent years steps were taken to ensure the public were not injured by horses being trotted along Fairhill Street.
A report prepared by a working group set up by Moyle Council to improve the Fair said the horse sales at Fairhill ‘have deteriorated into something which is extremely unattractive’ and it was recommended that horse sales are prohibited but replaced with a Shetland Pony Show on the Monday of the Fair and a donkey show on the Tuesday.
The report added: ‘These shows have the full support of the respective Northern Ireland Breed Societies and a number of animal humane societies have all offered their support.’
At a Council meeting last night (Monday), Council officer Esther Mulholland said that as the “unattractive” aspects of horse sales have brought bad publicity to the Fair it is recommended that is replaced by “more attractive” Shetland and also donkey shows.
Cllr Randal McDonnell said the issues surrounding horse sales might be difficult to control if it is taken away from the Fairhill area and Mrs Mulholland said it is recognised the changes could be “challenging” in the first year but discussions had already taken place with the police and animal charities.
Ahead of the Fair she said there will be a publicity drive and horse dealers will be contacted.
Mrs Mulholland said those wishing to attend the Shetland and pony shows at this year’s Lammas Fair in August will have to pre-enter; have animal ‘passports’ and will also need a parking permit and the Fairhill area will be secured from the Thursday before the Fair.
The Council unanimously agreed to the horse sale ban last night (Monday).
The reaction of horse dealers - many of whom are from the travelling community - was unknown on Tuesday morning.
In recent years, the Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary ‘Facebook’ page reported their volunteers had confiscated piping, sticks and hoses which they claimed were used to beat horses at the Lammas Fair.
The charity said they ensured horses had water said some animals were ‘re-directed to good private homes’ to help them back to peak condition but they were not in a bad enough state that they could be officially seized’.