European law on long-haul transport to slaughter is failing horses – charity

Horses being transported to slaughter.
Horses being transported to slaughter. Photo: World Horse Welfare.

A leading charity wants a 9-12 hour limit on all journeys by horses across Europe to slaughter by 2027, and is seeking public support for its campaign.

World Horse Welfare believes current European legislation is failing horses, saying the very legislation put in place to protect them still exposes many of them to arduous journeys.

Every year, around 50,000 horses are needlessly transported thousands of miles across Europe to slaughter.

Such trips can last for days, with little chance for the horses to rest, eat or drink.

The charity urges members of the public to sign its petition seeking an end to these long-haul journeys.

It wants the European Commission to take heed of scientific evidence from the European Food Standards Agency and impose a maximum journey limit of 9-12 hours.

Under existing European Union legislation, much longer journeys regularly take place. Legally, transporters must make one-hour food and water stops for the horses every eight hours and after 24 hours the horses must be unloaded and given a 24-hour rest at a control post before continuing their journey. However, there is no limit to this cycle. Whether these requirements are met depends on the level of enforcement which differs widely from country to country.

The charity’s campaigning on the issue has resulted in improvements to conditions, and the number of horses transported long distances to slaughterhouses has fallen by 70 percent in the last 15 years.

It says the petition is the next step in the journey to end the long-distance trade by 2027.

Scientific evidence shows that horse health and welfare deteriorate on long journeys, it says.

In addition to its positive impact on horse welfare, shorter journeys would also make it easier for transporters to comply with the law, and enforcement agencies would find it easier to enforce as shorter journeys could be better harmonised with driver working and rest times.

“We have been campaigning for 90 years against needlessly long journeys for slaughter in terrible conditions, and with the support of the public, including through previous petitions, we have helped to make so many improvements,” says World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers.

“Horses destined for slaughter in Europe are no longer loaded on to vessels by crane, nor left in trains for days on end at borders – and with the partitions we helped to introduce significant injuries and fatalities are far less common.”

While efforts had significantly reduced the long-haul trade, around 50,000 horses still endured such journeys each year.

“We have set an aim to end these long journeys for slaughter by our centenary in 2027 and we need the full force of public support behind us,” he says.

“It is completely unacceptable that the very legislation put in place to protect animal welfare would allow so many thousands of horses to be subjected to journeys as long as 24 hours at a time when the evidence is clear that such long journeys are bad for horse health and welfare.

“We firmly believe that introducing a 9-12 hour maximum, finite journey limit will help improve conditions even further, enable better compliance and enforcement of the law and reduce the risk of the spread of disease as horses’ immune systems are so prone to being compromised on long journeys.

“While we fully recognise that the length of journeys is not the only factor, it is a key one – especially when combined with the lack of water, food and rest that we unfortunately still see.

“Horses should be slaughtered as close to source as possible and we hope to one day see the needless long-distance trade consigned firmly to history.”

Owers urged people to sign the petition and encourage others to do so as well.

“We know that petitions work and have helped bring about change – every signature counts.”

To sign the petition please visit here

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