THE sight of some horses suffering “ill-treatment” at the Lammas Fair in Ballycastle is “not something the people of Ballycastle should be proud of”.
That was the comment of Esther Mulholland, Head of Development Services at Moyle District Council, in an official Council statement issued to the Times following a decision on Monday March 24 to ban horse sales at the Fair.
Mrs Mulholland said: “Animal sales have been happening as part of the Fair since its inception some time in the 17th century but over that time the Fair has changed and evolved until what happens today bears little resemblance to what happened 400 or even 50 years ago.
“The last 20 years has seen the sale of livestock sheep and cows dwindle and become non existent. Sale of horses used to mean a farmer bringing along a horse or donkey. That no longer happens and so the last 10 years has seen what we would term ‘traditional’ horse sales become an event for horse dealers who are turning up with lorries full of ponies, many of which show definite signs of serious neglect.
“Some of the animals often suffer ill-treatment over the two days despite the best efforts of Council staff, the PSNI, DARD, USPCA and many animal charities who volunteer at the event. This does not make for an attractive sight or something which the people of Ballycastle should be proud of or something our visitors are likely to enjoy and so the Council are replacing sales and instead promoting alternative horse events.
“There will be a Heavy Horse show on the Saturday at the seafront, and on Monday in the Fairhill area there will be a Shetland Pony then a Donkey Show on Tuesday. These are fun events where everyone can get up close to the animals and really enjoy the fun and spectacle of well turned out and well cared for animals.
“While the Council is not the official organisers of the Fair they have the responsibility to control it from the point of view of health and safety and Street Trading. From the 1st of April 2012 District Council’s in Northern Ireland have the added responsibility for Welfare of Animals,” said Mrs Mulholland.
Council Chairman Councillor Paudie McShane said in the Council statement: “The Lammas Fair today is about a good family day out and something Ballycastle wants to be proud of and which can be confidently promoted to tourists. This is the thought which guided Moyle District Council when they considered the matter at their meeting.
“The issue was how we could keep horses at the centre of the Fair but also make it a more attractive and enjoyable part of the two days. Happily we have made a decision on this and we will now be organising some really good horsey events which everyone can enjoy.”