Horses would benefit from dedicated and harmonised European Union laws on welfare, the first European Commission equine experts meeting was told this week.
The discussion at Thursday’s meeting was hailed by Eurogroup for Animals and the British-based charity World Horse Welfare as a significant first step in the process of securing better equine welfare, health and consumer protection across Europe.
The meeting gathered representatives from the equine sector, member states and welfare organisations. The clear conclusion was that several areas of welfare concern existed and that most of the problems were European-wide and may need addressing at EU level.
Possible measures included:
- Improved identification and registration;
- Better education on keeping and training;
- A ban on long distance transport to slaughter;
- The need for humane slaughtering;
- Much more focus on effective law and enforcement.
“Our recognition that equines are in urgent need of better protection was confirmed by today´s expert speakers,” said Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals.
“Although horse welfare is managed well by organisations like the FEI through their own self-regulation, it is clear that many more equines would benefit under the future Animal Welfare Framework Law or other dedicated harmonised EU legislation and implementation.
“This would ensure that actual law, soft law and educational efforts go hand in hand and significantly raise the quality of life offered to Europe´s equines. Equines are unique animals and need unique protection,”
In partnership with World Horse Welfare, Eurogroup for Animals, together with all its members involved in equine welfare, will now start a research process to map the equine sector, the role of regulation, and key equine welfare and health issues.
This process will further explore the equine areas of concern raised at Thursday’s gathering. However, the success of the research phase will depend on the contribution and quality of the data available at member-state level.
Results of the research process will be published in a report at the end of the year and will contain clear and concrete recommendations.
World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said the meeting clearly proved that equines were of fundamental importance to Europe.
“As such, this initial meeting must be just the first step to offering unique protection and support to Europe’s horses and growing equine sector.
“We need a grown-up debate on what regulation is and is not working. We need to work together as one sector and get Europe-wide agreement on how our horses can best be helped.
“We are sure to need a conference with a wider range of stakeholders once the initial research report is complete.”
Throughout the financial crisis, the equine economy has continued to grow in the European Union and in rural areas.
Andrea Gavinelli, head of the animal welfare unit, DG SANCO, said: “The European Commission recognises that there are gaps in the welfare legislation for equines and we are very pleased with the outcome of this equine expert meeting as a first step in a process that will improve the welfare of equines in the future.”