World Horse Welfare has voiced its concern over the poor standard of British border checks, as revised regulations come into force to protect low-value horses from long-haul overseas trips to slaughter.
The revised Tripartite Agreement (TPA), which came into force this month, means vulnerable horses and ponies of low value will have the chance of protection from long, gruelling and unregulated journeys.
The ease of movement of horses without health checks between Britain, Ireland and France since 2005 has been a concern sector-wide for many years, the charity said.
Thanks to the revised agreement signed late last year, the privileges of the agreement allowing horses to move between the three countries without the need for proper health certification, will now only apply to certain groups of “high health” horses going to and from France.
All other horses transported to and from the continent will need health certification signed by a vet.
Movements of horses between Britain and Ireland remain unchanged.
“This change was badly needed and has long been called for by World Horse Welfare and the wider sector,” the charity’s chief executive, Roly Owers, said.
“Quite simply, the previous TPA was unenforceable and an open door for equine disease to enter the UK, and there was evidence it was being used to transport vulnerable horses and ponies of a low value across the Channel.
“As for any regulation, this decision will only be worthwhile if effectively enforced and, sadly, the evidence of even basic compliance checks at our borders is not something we have seen yet.”
World Horse Welfare earlier this year revealed the situation at the port of Dover – that imported and exported horses were not being checked by the authorities before they entered or left the country.
Over a 48-hour surveillance period the charity witnessed 91 vehicles, capable of transporting two to 20 horses each, pass through the port without one single check from port authorities to find out what those vehicles might contain.
Without any accurate record of the horses which travelled through the port, there was no way of knowing the origin, state of health, or destination of the horses.
There was real suspicion too that, under the pretense of transport for sport or leisure, some of these horses were being transported to markets where slaughter-buyers were present.
The charity said it had already highlighted the issues to the authorities in charge of enforcement at British ports, as well as the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency, which works on behalf of the agriculture agency Defra.
However, the charity said it needed to continue its investigations in order to promote substantive change, including the need for checks at ports.
It has launched an appeal for donations to help stop the unnecessary suffering of British horses. It said donations would keep its investigators on the road, help with the funding of camera equipment to capture the visual evidence of illegal transportation, and fund research to help World Horse Welfare’s case for changes to European law.
People can donate here.