Leading equine groups believe Europe’s proposed new horse passport laws are fatally flawed and should be rejected.
Organisations including BEVA and World Horse Welfare (WHW) have been advising Defra on the proposal and have written to the secretary of state to outline concerns over the latest draft.
“Europe is on the brink of scuppering its opportunity to introduce an equine identification system that will work. The updated law being considered by the European Union, while making significant progress in some areas, simply fails to learn from the problems of the past.
The draft as it stands will actually create even more implementation and enforcement problems – and could actually pose a serious risk to horse welfare,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of WHW.
The organisations welcome some of the new provisions, such as requiring each member state to have a centralised equine database, improved identification document standards and the option of microchipping all horses.
But they are not happy about the requirement for the ID to accompany a carcase for destruction, confusion over who is responsible for sending IDs for invalidation and the need to return a passport to a passport issuing organisation for updating on change of ownership.
Equine vets are especially concerned the laws would place an unworkable obligation on them to check horse owners have lodged the correct paperwork with their horse passport issuer.
BEVA chief executive David Mountford said: “The draft procedure for signing animals out of the food chain is causing immense concern to the veterinary profession who consider it totally ridiculous, almost impossible to implement and doomed to fail.”
Under the proposal, if a horse owner has forgotten to send the horse’s ID document to their passport issuer for endorsement then their vet could be breaking the law if he or she fails to realise and rectify the horse owner’s omission. This would require the vet to know which of the 70-plus horse passport issuers based in the UK or the many others based elsewhere in the EU has registered the horse.
“Vets should be accountable for the medicines they prescribe, but the responsibility for the drug residues in the individual horse and the horse’s passport documentation should logically lie with the horse owner or keeper as it does with every other species that may end up in the human food chain,” added Mr Mountford.