Eyes on Animals visited the yearly horse market in Hedel this week. We joined the House of Animals’ team, who have been hiring professional bodyguards the last few years, in order to protect our teams against malicious visitors of this horse market.
When we arrived around midnight, there were no horses/ponies yet, so we could get a good overview of the layout of the market, which was great. Many of the improvements we suggested the past few years were put into place; this includes hay, straw, water and buckets, and good double strings to secure the animals with.
Also the noise of the fair was much less. The only, but very negative point, was the party tent, which is legally allowed to produce a maximum of 85 decibels. This tent is right next to the road, where the horses and ponies are; this distance is around 3-4 meters only.
The organisation mentioned that they adhere to the 85 decibels; however, we regularly measured higher amounts than this. Repeatedly, we asked for the music to be put at a lower level, but they didn’t do this. ‘It is allowed’, is what the law enforcers told us. So until 1.30 the already anxious animals had been standing in the noise. Of course, the last word has not yet been spoken on this.
The unloading of the animals was much better and calmer: every animal’s chip was checked upon unloading. We also haven’t seen any animals with injuries. What we did see, is many very young foals, and we wonder whether they were in the right place there. Furthermore, some dealers had to be told that their animals were secured too tightly, so they couldn’t eat, drink or lay down. Another problem that occurred is that the water was barely used; the buckets stood on the floor, mostly untouched, next to the water reservoirs.
It occurred to us that there were much less animals than we normally see. Later it turned out that not the wished for 1000-1500 horses were there, but only 644. This can be partially explained by the fact that horses are not allowed to be exported directly anymore. Still, it was a very small amount of animals, something the organisation of the horse market also didn’t understand. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on our behalf, but it could be that the market is on the decline.
As you know, Eyes on Animals is not an advocate of horse markets combined with fairs and other entertainment. The atmosphere was, unfortunately, grim and intimidating: we have been scolded, spat at, and there was even some pushing and pulling involved. This seems to be a yearly returning ‘tradition’ as well.
Bodyguards are not an unnecessary luxury, but a dire necessity. We would therefore like to thank Karen Soeters of House of Animals for letting us join her.