International equine charity World Horse Welfare has called for action to be taken to safeguard horses in Britain and the rest of Europe following the confirmation of Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) in two horses imported from Romania.
International equine charity World Horse Welfare has called for action to be taken to safeguard horses in Britain and the rest of Europe following the confirmation of equine infectious anaemia (EIA) in two horses imported from Romania.
The charity also has “grave concerns” over the fact that the infected horses were able to leave Romania, where EIA is endemic, and travel across Europe so easily.
DEFRA announced that the viral disease (commonly known as swamp fever) had been detected in two horses in Wiltshire. The premises are currently under restriction and the two infected horses will be humanely destroyed in line with existing regulations.
The animals arrived in a group of 10 horses, nine of which originated from Romania and one from Belgium. The nine Romanian horses were tested for EIA as part of routine post-import testing. Seven horses all tested negative. The horse that originated in Belgium is due to be tested shortly.
The other horses on the premises will be subject to epidemiological investigation in the coming weeks. One of the horses was moved to premises in Warwickshire which, despite negative test results, are now also under restriction.
Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens said: “This is the first case of equine infectious anaemia infected animals being imported into Great Britain since 1976 and shows the success of our post import testing regime. These were apparently healthy horses carrying a notifiable disease that we are keen to keep out of Great Britain. After considering the risk I have decided to take appropriate action and humanely destroy these two horses that tested positive.”
Responding to the news, World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “It is incredibly encouraging that post import checks appear to have worked in this instance. However this incident raises serious questions. We are gravely concerned that these horses were ever able to leave Romania and to travel across Europe so easily. There is a legal requirement for health certification before export from Romania, which includes blood testing for EIA.
“Romania, where EIA is endemic, is one of the largest exporters of horses for slaughter in Europe. World Horse Welfare has raised concerns with the authorities in the UK, Brussels, Romania and other Member States many times over the last six to seven years. If this disease spreads across the UK it could have catastrophic effects on our horse population. Disease does not discriminate, whether it’s a child’s pony or Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
“We were lucky with this case but we must heed the very real warning it signifies. Action must be taken to safeguard horses in Britain and the rest of Europe from this very real threat.”