Few horse welfare issues make it to Swiss sanctions commission, study finds

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A Swiss study has highlighted just how few horse welfare-related incidents observed at competitions make it to the commission set up to handle cases.

The research shows that nearly all such cases are dealt with at the showgrounds.

University of Zurich researchers Michael Hässig and R. Kranz investigated whether animal welfare was adequately catered for in equestrian sport in Switzerland.

The pair noted that the Sanktionskomission (SAKO), the penalty commission of the Swiss Equestrian Federation (SVPS), had reported handling hardly any cases involving alleged infringements of
horse welfare in recent years.

“This fact was criticised several times by different animal right groups in Switzerland,” the pair noted in a report in the journal Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd.

To explore the issue, they sent a survey to 544 active show judges affiliated with the SVPA.

Overall, 146 returned questionnaires that were considered suitable for evaluation.

“The evaluation of the survey was able to confirm the statement of the animal rights groups that the number of infringements of animal welfare provisions is much higher than the number handled by the SAKO,” Hässig and Kranz reported.

Altogether, 203 offences considered relevant in animal welfare terms were observed by the officials who participated in the survey in 2017.

“In contrast to these findings, no handled cases of infringements in animal welfare provision were published in the annual report 2017 of the SAKO.”

The survey indicated that 178 of the 203 offences observed by the officials were addressed and reprimanded directly on the showgrounds.

The most common welfare-related incidents identified by the surveyed officials were inappropriate, aggressive behaviour of the rider or driver, and rough handling with artificial aids.

A considerable number of the officials felt that the animal welfare situation on Swiss equestrian showgrounds was “unsatisfying”.

“An improvement of animal protection in Swiss equestrian sports can be achieved by raising the awareness for this topic of the officials as well as the equestrians and horse owners,” the pair said.

Ethics in Swiss equestrian sports: Is animal welfare adequately implemented? Hässig M, Kranz R.
Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. 2019 Sep;161(9):545-552. doi: 10.17236/sat00220. German.

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