Working horses still play a crucial role in the lives of people living in pockets of Europe, says a member of the European Parliament who applauds the passage of a major report seeking improved welfare standards for equines.
Animal advocacy groups in Europe have welcomed the adoption of the report, passed last week in a landslide of 656 votes out of the 691 members of the European Parliament who were present.
Key elements include controls around equine slaughter, and initiatives to improve working equine welfare standards for Europe’s seven million horses, donkeys and mules.
The Responsible Ownership of Equids report contained details on the role and importance of working horses, donkeys and mules in Europe, and stressed that their welfare was vital.
It acknowledged that these animals supported people’s livelihoods, and that owners and users should have guidance on how to care for them.
However, the report and its recommendations are not yet binding for European countries, and it will now be passed to the European Commission with a recommendation for action.
Dil Peeling, the director of animal welfare and sustainability for the Brooke, an international charity that works to improve the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules, described the passage of the report as a fantastic result.
Peeling said it showed real acknowledgement of the role working horses, donkeys and mules played in people’s lives around the world.
“It’s the first step towards solid legislation in Europe.
“We hope to see the recommendations extended in future, too. The report is correct in saying that owners and users require training and education to better look after their working equines, but these people often experience extreme economic difficulties.
“This means it may be hard to apply what they learn. If we want to see real improvement and change, there is so much more we can do,” Peeling said.
“Nevertheless, this is a huge win for working horses, donkeys and mules. It will also help us at Brooke increase political pressure on governments outside of Europe to make improvements to working equine welfare.”
Brooke runs on-the-ground programmes in 11 countries, but its advocacy work stretches further. Its team provided technical knowledge, data and advice to several Members of the European Parliament, in particular Nuno Melo, who was shadow rapporteur on the report.
Melo, who has dedicated much of his own time to this cause, expressed his pleasure at the passage of the report.
He also called on the European Commission to commit itself to programmes of financial support for the preservation and protection of native species of horses, donkeys and mules in the wild or in danger of extinction in the European Union.
“As Shadow Rapporteur I was concerned to underline the importance of equids in every region of Europe, particularly in the rural areas, in the context of subsistence farming and in mountainous and difficult-to-reach regions, where it is clear that equids – working equids – are still playing a crucial role.
“This report is a step forward but we need to do more to offer concrete support for these animals and their owners in the near future.”
The report also referred to the global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules, approved last year by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Brooke recently joined The Donkey Sanctuary, Spana and World Horse Welfare in a coalition to support the implementation of these standards worldwide.