Digital passport for European horse travel proposed

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© Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans / FEI

A new post-Brexit digital passport system that would allow for the free movement of horses between Great Britain and Europe from next year has been proposed.

The proposal by the International Sport Horse Confederation (IHSC) Taskforce for Brexit and European Union (EU) Animal Health Law will ensure the efficient cross-border movement of sport, racing and breeding horses from 2021, following the end of the Brexit transition period in December. It would also meet the requirements of the new EU Animal Health Law Legislation, which comes into force at the beginning of next year.

Göran Akerström
Göran Akerström. © Thomas Blomqvist/Kanal 75

FEI Veterinary Director and Chair of the IHSC Task Force Dr Göran Akerström said the system was “an unprecedented show of solidarity for the horse industry in Europe”.

The digital passport system would simplify the movement of horses by providing authorities of EU countries with fail-safe information on the horse’s identity, as well as real-time monitoring of its movement and ownership information. These passports would also contain up-to-date vaccination and medical records, allowing for a higher level of monitoring and prevention of potential disease outbreaks.

It is hoped that the solution, based on existing EU legislation and agreements, will gain strong support from the main stakeholders in the European horse industry. If adopted, it would ensure a level of identification, biosecurity and disease detection that goes beyond the scope of what is currently contained in the new EU Animal Health Law legislation.

“Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, the difficulties in implementing the new Animal Health Law legislation, as well as the problems created by the global pandemic stand to adversely impact a regional industry which generates an annual revenue in excess of €50 billion and provides employment for more than 500,000 people,” Akerström said.

“Any obstacles to the cross-border movement of horses and associated personnel would result in huge economic losses to Britain, Ireland and France, as well as other EU Member States such as Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy.

“It is imperative that we put in place systems and processes to ensure the efficient and safe cross-border movement of horses and this digital passport would play a key role in that.”

The digital passports would be available and operational from the beginning of 2021, although paper passports would continue to be issued as is currently required by the EU. Ultimately, if the system is approved by EU Member States, it could be used as an alternative to paper passports.

The IHSC Task Force is the result of a unique collaboration that has brought together the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the European Equestrian Federation (EEF), the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) as well as the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation (ITBF) and the European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Association (EFTBA).

The Task Force has met every week since May to work on solutions that will ensure the unhindered movement of horses with guaranteed high health status, as well as the temporary movement of essential, skilled people such as grooms, trainers, riders, jockeys and veterinarians across EU borders.

The long-term aim is to create a Europe-wide network of databases that register a horse’s identity, allows for an equine to be easily located and identified, and ensures the secure movement of horses anywhere in Europe.

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