Govt consultation on horse transport a chance to improve travel welfare

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Horses are transported in trucks for thousands of miles across Europe to reach slaughter plants.
Horses are transported in trucks for thousands of miles across Europe to reach slaughter plants. © World Horse Welfare

International charity World Horse Welfare has welcomed the eight-week consultation announced last week in England and Wales on ending live animal export for slaughter and fattening — the founding campaign for the charity.

It also hopes that transport for all horses can be improved during the government consultation.

Horses stand apart from other livestock as large numbers are transported across borders worldwide for a variety of different reasons from breeding or slaughter to leisure and competition, which creates additional challenges. No horses leaving the UK this century have been declared for slaughter although, without doubt, some have ended their lives in European slaughterhouses, highlighting the need for more due diligence on the part of enforcers and better traceability.

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers said that all horses travelling should be subject to improved legislation ensuring their welfare, but it was also important that equine transport remain a straightforward process for those that make journeys abroad for genuine purposes other than slaughter.

“We believe journey times should be limited, with a finite maximum for animals going to slaughter and with suitable rest periods between journeys for all other horses,” Owers said.

“Of course, a consultation on improving animal welfare in transport is some way off bringing about effective legislation, but it is certainly a very encouraging development.”

World Horse Welfare has worked with Defra, along with both the Scottish and Welsh governments, on this issue and responded to previous Calls For Evidence, but the charity notes that this consultation is only for Wales and England and hopes there will be alignment across Great Britain to ensure consistency and make compliance and enforcement easier.

Likewise, full traceability of individual horses is essential, but the current system is far from adequate so the charity urges the government that the opportunity is taken to make improvements off the back of this consultation.

World Horse Welfare continues to work to improve the laws governing long-distance transport of horses across Europe for slaughter in the EU, where it is seeking to influence changes in an upcoming review of the legislation.

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