Equestrian products from India manufactured in unsafe conditions

4:27 min

Swedish Radio's investigative program Kaliber found that cheap riding gear on sale in Sweden can mean poor conditions for factory workers in India. To feed the Swedish market need for inexpensive equestrian products, a manufacturing town in India pays workers low wages for long hours.

And the factories had a number of safety hazards that would not have been tolerated at production facilities in Sweden.

Half a million Swedes ride horses regularly. Just in the last 40 years the number of horses in Sweden has quintupled. With 360,000 horses, the country has the second highest density in Europe.

One reason for the increase is the availability of cheaper riding equipment. While a high quality saddle might still cost SEK 50,000, nowadays you can find a more affordable one at just SEK 3,000.

But when reporters with Kaliber, posing as potential customers, visited factories and tanneries in Kanpur, India - a city that produces many saddles, halters, and bridles for Swedish retailers - they found workers at serious risk for disease and death. 

Some factories had boxes, fabric and chemical containers strewn about the premises, posing a major fire risk. And in none of the nine factories they visited did the reporters find protective gear for workers handling powerful chemicals.

When Kaliber spoke with representatives from some Swedish retailers who sell equestrian products, most said that they set requirements for the factory conditions in which their products were made. Some said they even performed checks.

But after Kaliber returned from India and showed pictures from the Kanpur factories, some retailers replied that their checks weren't enough.