Lords debates equine welfare

06 July 2012

Members of the Lords with a special interest in equine and animal welfare spoke about issues related to the welfare and transportation of horses in the European Union yesterday (Thursday 5 July)

Lord Higgins (Conservative), who has a daughter who is an equine veterinary surgeon, opened the debate referring to the special relationship between many British people and horses.

He then raised his concerns about the suffering caused by the international trade in horses for slaughter in the EU. He explained: 'This issue has been raised in a number of different ways, in particular on the question of whether there should be an amendment to the European law on this subject.

'In the forefront of all these is the problem that, as evidence from World Horse Welfare and others shows, the animals are transported in the most appalling conditions that do not conform to what is set out in the regulations.'

President of the Horse Trust and the chairman of the All-Party Group for the Horse, Baroness Mallalieu (Labour) followed and spoke of her concerns about working conditions and the duration of journeys for horses. 

She said: 'I have recently visited the Transylvania part of Romania where tractors are still a rarity and the work is done, as it was 150 years ago, by horse-drawn vehicles. The population of working horses in eastern Europe is still huge yet, despite the fact that no horse there is more than 12 hours from an abattoir in which it could end its days after its working life finishes, many will instead make a journey of two to four days to Italy and Spain in vehicles which are... far removed from the sleek racehorse transporters which we see on our motorways.'

Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat) said that progress would be slow until EU members are made more aware of the issue. He said: 'Unless we can enforce regulations and guidance about rest periods, feeding and watering, and make sure that national enforcement agencies regard it as a priority, with people shamed and punished when they break the rules, very little is likely to happen.'

Lord Dear (Crossbench) is a trustee of World Horse Welfare, the registered charity previously known as the International League for the Protection of Horses. He spoke of his concerns that transportation of unfit horses across Europe could spread equine diseases like horse sickness and equine infectious anaemia.  

Lord de Mauley (Conservative) who is president of Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) responded on behalf of the government. He concluded: 'We care a great deal about the welfare of all equines - indeed, all animals. We acknowledge the work that the many equine welfare organisations do in caring for abandoned and badly treated animals, and the campaigns that they run to highlight welfare issues and concerns.'

Further information

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