No horses have officially been exported from Britain for slaughter in decades, but the reality is likely to be very different, according to the charity World Horse Welfare.
It lays the blame on inadequate systems for tracing equines.
The British-based charity is welcoming the Government’s call for evidence into the live export trade, with the country’s departure from the European Union looming.
“We will be responding with our evidence from the field as well as scientific research,” it says.
World Horse Welfare says transport is an integral part of the horse industry.
“There are always challenges and welfare issues involved in any kind of transport – and especially when travelling longer distances to slaughter.”
The charity has long campaigned in Britain and Europe to end the long, distressing, and arduous journeys to slaughter faced by many horses in Europe. It has monitored horse movements through ports as part of its research.
“We have always advocated short finite journey limits for horses being transported to slaughter and fully support the principle that equines should not be exported or imported for slaughter.
“However, the stark reality is that officially no horses have been exported for slaughter from the UK for decades.
“We question this reality as horses are imported and exported for many reasons and without proper equine traceability there is simply no way to guarantee that a horse declared as being exported for riding is not sold at a market for meat.
“Until there is full traceability within and outside of the UK – something we are pressing for long-term – it could be a challenge to truly know where exported horses end up.”
The charity says the call for evidence provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of introducing additional measures, such as checks on equines as a matter of course – or spot checks at the borders and at the point of origin – to better assess compliance with the law.
This, it said, was currently not possible under European Union rules.
“We are also encouraged that the UK Government aims to consider improvements to the way all animals are transported and to reflect fully the latest scientific and veterinary knowledge, such as around journey times, rest stops, watering and feeding in law.
“Given we have campaigned for many years for the EU to update their transport rules in light of recent research, the UK’s leadership here is to be commended.
“This call for evidence provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of introducing additional measures.”
The charity said it strongly encouraged all those involved in horse transport and slaughter to respond.
“All too often, horses are overlooked in policies concerned only with farm or companion animals.”