FEI President HRH Princess Haya addresses the EU Veterinary Week conference in Brussels.
She highlighted the need to create a clear distinction between the sport horse as an equine athlete and livestock that is part of the food chain.
Identification and traceability are hugely important to the equine industry, she noted, helping minimise the risk of disease-spread during cross-border transportation of competition horses, and also enhancing integrity and promoting public confidence in the equestrian industry.
As an industry with an estimated annual turnover of around €30 billion and, depending on the member state, the creation of one job per 4-10 animals, a disease outbreak would have a huge economic impact on horse sport.
The horse is uniquely one of the most internationally moved animals on the planet, Princess Haya stated, emphasising that the FEI is very aware that the transportation of horses must take place safely, but with appropriate regard to risk. "Therefore we support the EU health requirements and recording of movements, both within the EU, and into the EU from third countries," she said.
She pointed out that the international equine athletes that compete under FEI rules are probably the most inspected and checked animals in the world, with more than 1000 FEI Veterinary Officials working at events worldwide to ensure that rules on vaccination requirements, freedom from disease and fitness to compete are adhered to.
The FEI President stressed that the equestrian industry recognised the need for identification documents some time ago and that the FEI was one of the first organisations to provide horse passports on a global scale. The FEI also contributed to the establishment of an identification system of Unique Equine Life Numbers - UELNs - for horses.
"As an industry and as an organisation, we completely support the EU requirement for the now compulsory passports of all equines within the community and the introduction of mandatory microchipping," Princess Haya said.
"In the past, the equine industry has been criticised from a regulatory perspective because it is clearly not easy to put numbered tags into horses' ears - but with widespread microchipping we are going to be able to go so much beyond that, being able to not only identify horses and trace movements, but also link microchips to data on the horse's entire history," she said.
Princess Haya referred to the ongoing debate about the in-competition use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), noting that "we have a system in place which carefully monitors all medication issues. Under import and export regulations, our horses have to be signed out of the food chain and our rules require that all medications administered must be recorded."
The European Veterinary Week (EVW) was organised for the first time in 2008 by the European Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe. It aims to increase the public's interest and awareness in EU animal-health and food-safety matters. In light of the positive feedback received from Member States, veterinarians, stakeholders and the general public, it was felt that it would be beneficial to have an EU Veterinary Week annually.
This year's EVW is taking place in Brussels from 14-20 June. The week opened with a two-day conference for over 400 delegates, including the Chief Veterinary Officers from EU Member States, as well as representatives of international organisations, EU veterinary faculties, stakeholder organisations and media.