Proposals put to the UK and Welsh Governments over a 12-hour travel limit for commercially transported horses have been met with approval by international charity World Horse Welfare.
Alongside a ban on live export to slaughter, which is already included in legislation being considered by the UK Parliament, the proposals would introduce a maximum journey time of 12 hours for all horses transported commercially replacing the current maximum journey length of 24 hours for slaughter and unregistered horses and introducing a journey time limit for registered horses.
The proposals are the result of a “welfare during transport” consultation earlier this year.
World Horse Welfare supports halving the current maximum journey length to 12 hours and introducing a journey time for registered horses, but the journey time must be re-set after a 9-hour rest period for all horses, other than for those going to slaughter. The charity is also calling for short mandatory rest stops to be included in any new law to ensure horses are fed, watered and checked on during the 12-hour journey.
Chief Executive Roly Owers said the proposals mark a significant and positive step toward improving the welfare of equines when being transported.
“Unlike other large animals, horses travel frequently and widely for many reasons such as breeding, leisure, racing and other sports. We are concerned that many of these proposals seem to have been driven by improving the welfare of animals travelling for fattening and to slaughter which in many cases are not realistic and could have serious implications for sport and the leisure sector without bringing any clear welfare benefits. We believe that there is a strong case to introduce a 9-hour rest period for equines following a 12-hour journey, other than those transported to slaughter, to allow them to continue their journey to their final destination or return from competition.
“We are pleased that the consultation response commits to further discussion and recognises the need for a holistic approach to transport, ensuring the welfare of the horse is protected before, during and after transport. This aligns with the approach taken in the Scottish consultation, which was much wider in scope than the English and Welsh, and we hope that whatever regime comes in will be applied consistently across Great Britain. An integrated approach is vital for driving behaviour change and encouraging compliance, as we have seen time and time again that complex and differing legislation can be confusing and challenging to comply with.
“To make any of these proposals workable and enforceable we will again emphasise the fundamental need for a straightforward, reliable and robust fully digital method of identification and traceability for all horses.”
Owers said the charity looked forward to working with Defra, the Welsh Government and the equestrian sector to ensure the proposals both protect equines during what is often a stressful and exhausting experience and are practical for horse owners and transporters to comply with.