DEFRA has hit back at the national press following reports the department paid a PR firm nearly £46,000 to teach travellers “not to eat their horses”.

DEFRA has hit back at the national press following reports the department paid a PR firm nearly £46,000 to teach travellers “not to eat their horses”.

Horses in fieldAccording to The Sun newspaper, officials paid Linstock Communications £45,810 to advise travellers on the 2009 EU regulations requiring horse owners to microchip their animals and keep passports, in order to improve traceability in the event of disease outbreaks and prevent contaminated horse meat entering the food chain.  

The paper discovered the information as part of a Freedom of Information request and the story has also appeared in other news outlets including the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

The EU ruling requires owners to sign the passport to confirm if an animal is not destined for human consumption. 

According to the Sun, the campaign by Linstock Communications required travellers “to sign a legal document promising not to dine on their animals”.

However, DEFRA has slammed the reporting of Linstock’s traveller campaign.

A department spokesman said: “It was nothing to do with eating horses. The campaign explained changes to EU rules which meant owners needed to have their foals and any previously unidentified horses micro-chipped when they applied for horse passports.

“This was to improve disease control and help prevent the export of contaminated meat. No part of the campaign involved asking the owners to promise not to eat horse meat.”

Commenting on the cost and rationale of employing an external PR agency he added: “The campaign was outsourced to an agency that had specialist knowledge and experience of working with this group.”

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