Europe closer to ending long-haul horse abuse

The European Commission has agreed on the need to review EU legislation on long-distance transport of animals to slaughter.
The European Commission has agreed on the need to review EU legislation on long-distance transport of animals to slaughter. © World Horse Welfare

The European Commission now agrees that EU legislation on long-distance transport of animals to slaughter needs to be reviewed.

Late last week,  the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, agreed with welfare groups that the present Transport Regulation cannot adequately protect animals on long journeys and must be reviewed.

The charity World Horse Welfare said the statement constituted an important change in the position of the Commission, which until now had maintained that enforcement of the present rules would address serious welfare problems still experienced by tens of millions of animals, including 65,000 horses, transported on European roads for slaughter or further fattening every year.

Dalli made the statement after meetings with members of the European Parliament and animal welfare groups in Brussels at the handover of a petition signed by more than one million EU citizens calling for a maximum journey limit of 8 hours for these animals.

He agreed with the participants that existing transport regulations were not sufficient to guarantee an acceptable level of welfare for animals during transport, and announced that the commission will propose a review of EU legislation that will include – among other things – a reduction of transport times.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “We welcome the commission’s recognition that enforcement alone is not enough, particularly as elements of the current Transport Regulation are largely unenforceable.

“This is a good step in the right direction, but as always the devil will be in the detail. We will now work with the commission, the EU Parliament, Ministers and other animal welfare groups to press for this review to commence as soon as possible, and for changes to be made immediately where the regulation is out of line with scientific knowledge.”

Such scientific knowledge exists for horses. The charity pointed to the recommendations of scientists at the European Food Safety Authority, who called in 2011 for a maximum journey limit of 12 hours for horses transported to slaughter.

World Horse Welfare is pressing for a short, maximum journey limit of no more than 9-12 hours in line with current scientific evidence.

The Council of European Ministers is currently debating whether they will recommend a review of the Transport Regulation and World Horse Welfare is urging all horse lovers in Europe to write to their agriculture ministers on this important issue.


A quick and easy way to reach your Agriculture Minister and guidance on what to say can be found here and on World Horse Welfare’s take action pages.

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One thought on “Europe closer to ending long-haul horse abuse

  • June 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

    The humane transport issues should concern everyone, whether or not the equines are transported to slaughter within the Europe Union, or are US horses slaughtered in Canada and Mexico (or as my soon happen, within the US) for European tables.

    US horses are subject to grossly inhumane transport conditions, all banned by US regulations, none of which are enforced. Go to if you wish to see what a “USDA” (US Department of Agriculture) stamp of approval really means. Look at the FOIA documents and photos, all of them provided by the USDA itself. This is an agency whose standards are not enforced, not just in terms of humane transport, but in terms of food safety. US horses going to slaughter have no system of drug traceability. If European consumers think they are getting meat free of substances banned by the USDA and FDA for food animals, they are mistaken. I happen to find the humane conditions under which horses are bought, sold, shipped and slaughtered to be atrocious. But I am also appalled at what the Europeans are importing from our shores. There is a reason our government lets you have it and why we don’t eat it. And it’s not just because Americans think (and know) how cruel it is.

    I have written an entire series on this subject: eight articles on You can see them at


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