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News from Europe: Improved horse welfare standards to benefit millions of horses

March 25, 2017

Improved equine welfare standards are on the cards thanks to a landmark resolution made by the European parliament.

The proposals from MEP Julie Girling were passed by a large majority and cover horses, donkeys and mules used in a broad range of activities, from farming to tourism.The report will now be passed to the European Commission with a recommendation for action.

Proposals include a shorter maximum journey time for all movements of horses for slaughter and a commitment by member states to inspect slaughterhouses licensed to handle horses; the dissemination of information to tourists to help them decide whether to use services involving working horses and donkeys; and new guidance on donkey and horse milk farming and increased inspections of farms.

The report also called for production and circulation by the European Commission of information on how to care for horses and donkeys, including responsible breeding and end of life care, as well as a review of the impact of VAT on equestrian enterprises.

“Horses and donkeys have come to possess vast economic potential,” said Mrs Girling. Today the equine sector adds more than €100bn to the EU’s economy each year and is a leading rural employer in many member states. However, in too many cases these animals are faced with severe welfare concerns including neglect, overwork and inappropriate living conditions.”

“Europe’s citizens want to see more action on animal welfare and, with this report, I believe we have a golden opportunity to not only substantially improve the lives of seven million horses and donkeys but, by better caring for these animals, we also have a chance to unlock the full economic potential of the sector and boost the rural economy. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

World Horse Welfare chief executive, Roly Owers, said: “The adoption of the resolution by the European Parliament today could not be more timely: June will see the first meeting of the new EU Animal Welfare Platform, a new forum that aims to address specific challenges to animal welfare through cooperation between civil society, public authorities and industry.

“We hope to see the recommendations extended in future too. The report is correct in saying that owners and users require training and education to better look after their working equines, but these people often experience extreme economic difficulties. This means it may be hard to apply what they learn. If we want to see real improvement and change, there is so much more we can do.”

As horse lover, I couldn’t be happier about these changes and improvements to better the lives of horses in Europe. Luckily, here in Australia we don’t have as many issues regarding working donkeys or extremely poor living conditions. However, issues of overbreeding or the transport of horses for slaughter exist here as well. Hopefully we can follow in Europe’s footsteps and implement stronger regulations and recommendations here in Australia as well.

Source: Horse & Hound

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