Equines break through wall of silence
Posted on 08/05/2014
First EC equine expert meeting shows Europe must act on horse welfare
Eurogroup for Animals and World Horse Welfare welcomed the discussion at the European Commission’s first equine expert meeting yesterday hailing it 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 and a clear conclusion is that several areas of welfare concerns exist and that most of these problems are pan-European and need addressing at EU level including: improved identification and registration, better education on keeping and training, a ban on long distance transport to slaughter, the need for humane slaughtering and last but not least much more focus on effective law and enforcement.
“Our recognition that equines are in urgent need of better protection was confirmed by the expert speakers. 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,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals.
In partnership with World Horse Welfare, Eurogroup for Animals together with all its members involved in equine welfare will now start a research process mapping the equine sector, the role of regulation and key equine welfare and health issues. This mapping will further explore the equine areas of concern raised today. However the success of the research will depend on the contribution and quality of the data available at member state level. The result of the research will be published in a report at the end of 2014 with clear and concrete recommendations.
“Yesterday’s expert meeting clearly proved that equines are of fundamental importance to Europe and as such this initial meeting must be seen as just the first step in offering unique protection and support to Europe’s horses and the 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 to develop a Europe-wide agreement on how our horses can best be helped. We call on the experts who attended this expert meeting, member states and Europe’s horse sector to help provide the data for this landmark research. We are sure that we will need a conference with a wider range of stakeholders once the initial research report is complete to address the issues raised,” said Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare.
Throughout the financial crisis, the equine economy has continued to grow in the EU and in rural areas in particular equine activities contribute significantly to the local economy. As a consequence for many people both in rural and urban areas equines form an integral part of their lives for economic reasons, for leisure, tourism and as source of food. This very clearly gives evidence that equines are an intrinsic part of the internal market.
“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,” added Andrea Gavinelli, Head of the Animal Welfare Unit, DG SANCO.