Post-Brexit border controls are failing horses, British lawmakers are told

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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

Border controls imposed following Britain’s departure from the European Union are not working for horses, lawmakers have been told.

Horses are having to endure unacceptably long delays at border points, raising welfare concerns.

The charity World Horse Welfare aired its concerns this week before an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Commons Select Committee enquiry on the movement of horses across international borders.

Since Brexit, the movement of animals across borders has involved a series of regulatory changes.

The charity’s chief executive, Roly Owers, raised a raft of issues around the operation of the current border control system for horses.

“In the first few months of 2021, there have been long delays for horses at Border Control Posts, especially at Calais, with some horses being held for hours, or even longer.

“The number of horses moving in the early months of the year is a third of normal levels and yet the capacity has already proven too low.

“The infrastructure, resources and paperwork-based process are not fit for purpose and the delays represent a significant animal welfare issue, which will only increase as summer heat builds, especially if cooler overnight movements are not possible as the border control posts are only open from 8am to 6pm.”

Owers told lawmakers that the development of a Common Veterinary Area with the European Union would significantly simplify and speed up the compliant movement of horses across borders.

“This must be underpinned by digitisation of equine ID, which World Horse Welfare as part of the British Horse Council has been advocating for a long time, and effective intelligence-led enforcement, with well-resourced enforcement agencies working in collaboration.

“This will streamline the process while preventing the movement of illegal, non-compliant movements of horses, many of which we believe end up in European slaughterhouses.

“Digital, not paper, is the way forward and for all horse owners we need the carrot of recognising the benefits of a good digital ID system, and the stick of effective enforcement.”

World Horse Welfare’s contribution followed a previous written submission as part of the British Horse Council to the equestrian section of the inquiry, which covers impacts on animal health including disease outbreak, economic interests, the capacity of Britain to adapt to new regulations, and the illegal movements of animals across borders. Later sessions dealt with other animals, livestock and pets.

Owers was joined in the session which considered matters surrounding animal transportation by Ross Hamilton, head of public affairs with the British Horseracing Authority, and Jan Rogers, director of research and policy, with The Horse Trust in the session.

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