Transport Ruling Raises Questions Among U.K. Equine Organizations

The United Kingdom has always been among the world leaders in animal protection, but the latest European Union Regulation on the Protection of Animals during Transport (Jan. 5) has left many U.K. organizations wondering if the ruling has gone far enough or if it has gone too far.

The Regulation includes issues that should lead to significantly improved conditions for horses being transported across Europe and particularly to slaughter. These include requiring individual stalls, banning the shipment of large groups of unbroken horses on long journeys, improving vehicles (mechanical ventilation, provisions for water, and temperature control), training drivers to handle horses, and enforcing shortened journey length requirements through the use of driver logs and global positioning systems.

It's no question that animal transport is an issue. Horsemeat in Europe is a staple in many diets, particularly in Italy and France. Prior to the new regulation, on the European continent there were no such rules, and according to the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), an organization which has campaigned for the welfare of slaughter horses since 1927, horses are crammed into overcrowded trucks and transported for days at a time with few breaks, little water, and no veterinary care.

The ILPH is "cautiously optimistic" that this regulation should help to alleviate the plight of thousands of horses transported long distances for slaughter; but it thinks that there is still a long way to go.

Jo White, head of campaigns and European affairs for the ILPH says, "We lobbied very hard for significant improvements to be included within the new transport regulation, but this is only one side of the story; enforcement must be rigorous if welfare improvements are to have any real impact, and the issue of reducing journey times must be brought back on to the agenda. The ILPH will be keeping a close eye on how the introduction of the regulation shapes up." Stocking density is also an issue that has not been addressed.

Many U.K. riders were worried that vague wording in the rule--which includes horses transported for economic reasons--might impact recreational riders. Mark Weston, director of Access, Safety and Welfare at the British Horse Society, says that the Society welcomes the regulation and the anticipated improvement that they will bring to the welfare of transported animals. "The regulation only applies to those people who are transporting animals as part of an 'economic activity,' therefore, the regulations will not apply to hobby riders. However, the further clarification that we will be seeking will be exactly what is meant by 'economic activity.' For example, if you own one horse and go to a competition and don't win anything, that obviously is not an 'economic activity,' but when does it become one? When you win a £100, £1,000, £10,000, or never if you are not making a living from it?"

About the Author

Sharon Biggs Waller

Sharon Biggs Waller is a freelance writer for equine ­science and human interest publications. Her work has appeared in several publications and on several websites, and she is a classical dressage instructor.

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