Animal welfare ‘prioritised’ ahead of 2019 Barnbougle Polo event

The circumstances surrounding the death of 16 horses that died in transit from Tasmania to NSW after competing at last year’s event remains unknown, with the matter now before the Victorian Supreme Court.

Acknowledging the “tragedy”, organiser Penny Sattler said they did consider not bringing the event back.

“We talked to different groups of people about it and we had so many people contact us and say they would be so disappointed if we didn’t hold it,” she said.

“We thought we should do it again, so we have.

“There is a lot of work that goes into the day, so something like that is just a negative that affect the efforts that everybody puts in and obviously it is such a devastating thing to have happened as well.”

Of the 60 polo ponies set to take to the field on Saturday, about 40 arrived safely from the mainland earlier this week.

Another 20 Tasmanian-bred ponies have also been contractedthrough Wickford Polo, based outside of Longford.

Ms Sattler said the ponies were only contracted for the day of competition, with the responsibility of travel left in the hands of owners.

“Essentially they are here for the day and we don’t have anything to do with them being transported back to the mainland,” she said.

“If we can look after them while they are here, we hope that everyone else that deals with the horses along the way does the best to look after them as well.

“I suppose there is always concerns when you are transporting animals, but we just have to hope that everybody that has a role to play in getting them here, does that and gets them here safely.

“The duty of care is done by everybody to the highest standard.”

Andrew Williams filed a civil case with the Supreme Court of Victoria against TT-Line and QUBE Holdings in August.

The Spirit of Tasmania has denied any liability and remains the major sponsor of the Barnbougle Polo.

A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department spokeswoman said Biosecurity Tasmania continued to act under instruction of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“We are not in a position to provide any further information at this stage,” the spokeswoman said.

“The department reiterates the earlier advice that the evidence indicates the deaths of the horses was an isolated incident, and there is not a risk for horses transported across Bass Strait in accordance with regulatory animal welfare standards.”

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