Animal rights group feels unsafe working at horse markets

Animal protection organization Dierenbescherming stopped filming abuse on horse markets because of aggression employees face from horse traders. "We can no longer guarantee the safety of our people", Piko Fieggen of the organization said to NOS.

According to Fieggen, incidents are becoming more and more serious and employees have dealt with spitting, threats, and being run over by a horse. "At first it was just a little push and pull, but if there are people gathered around you, telling you in a threatening tone that you better leave, that is really not fun. Especially for our female employees", he said to the broadcaster. "I also heard about a trader that offered his colleagues a few thousand euros if one of us is beaten."

Dierenbescherming believes that the aggression stems from horse traders not wanting the organization to reveal the abuses that take place on the markets. The organization has been posting footage online for about six months. "It is very visible now", Fiegen said. "Denial no longer makes sense" how horses are pulled to a start at loading, that the animals get little or no water to drink, that horses are rarely checked for diseases upon arrival on the market. That there is one doctor to check 300 horses. That is of course impossible."

The organization did not report these incidents to the police, considering it a waste of time.

Rinus Bakker, horse trder and chairman of the Central Association for Horse Traders, denies the accusations made by Dierenbescherming. "I regularly go to horse fairs, I do not recognize this type of story." He said to NOS.

According to Bakker, a foal my be pulled if he has difficulty starting. "But I do not think people will try pulling large adult horses. And drinking water? There is at all the markets. But horses barely drink on markets, they do that back home in the evening, then they eat and drink again." He also doesn't know about people from the organization being threatened. "Look, last tie people were filming at the market in Zuildaren at night. One trader asked them: who are you? If you then refuse to say who you are, yes, then you may have some trouble."

Bakker calls this an old tale from the organization. "They want but one thing, that horse markets should be banned. We are consulting with everyone for a good way to keep horse markets open, that there is proper control. The Dierenbescherming are welcome to come see, we ave an open mind, we have nothing to hide."