An Ethics Viewpoint

03 June 2008
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Being an ethics boy has its drawbacks but of late I have increasingly pondered the ethics of horse feeding.

This was brought sharply into focus as the cereal prices soared and cheaper raw materials were drawn into the raw materials matrices by the millers.
These raw materials included rice (also increasingly used in dog foods). This was followed shortly afterwards by the news of riots in the Far East as populations were short of rice, their staple food. These 2 situations are not directly linked and the picture is far more complex than coincidence would suggest. However i could not help but reflect on how i would feel if i was short of food and i heard that dogs and horses in the UK were being fed rice.

The more I thought about this situation the more I felt we had to not only consider what is the most appropriate feed for our horses but whether the feed we were feeding them was using raw materials that could be feeding a human being. Taking this a stage further we may one day have to consider whether the land we are growing our horsefeeds on could be put to better use producing food for humans.

I have since done some basic preliminary research into the ethics of producing the horse feeds we offer. On the face of it we score pretty well:
1) forages (especially lucerne) and linseed grow well in poor soils and use low levels of inputs.
2) Lucerne is the best break crop between cereals as it more or less eliminates the need for blackgrass sprays and reduces weeds in general, they reduce soil compaction due to their deep roots, and since they fix nitrogen they release this slowly into the soil reducing the need for N applications in subsequent cereal crops and lucerne itself never needs N applications. Lucerne remains in the ground for 3 to 4 years eliminating the need for annual cultivations which is very carbon friendly.
3) Linseed, also a low input crop is also a great preparation for a following cereal crop.
5) And of course forages are the natural feed of horses not humans.

This is not the end of this conversation - we can do better and we fully intend to. We will keep you posted with any progress.

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