The veterinary profession must take a leading role in enforcing the current regulation governing the long-distance transport of horses, in order for equine welfare standards to be improved.
Vets attending the first veterinary-led European Equine Transport Forum have agreed that their profession needs to take a leading role to help enforce the current regulation governing the long-distance transport of horses, in order for equine welfare standards to be improved.
In support, the BEVA Trust has announced the introduction of the BEVA Trust Equine Transport Enforcement Award of €1,000, to be given annually to the individual or group of individuals working in the field, doing the most to improve enforcement of the current transport regulation.
The forum (held in Brussels on November 29, 2010) was initiated by BEVA president Madeleine Campbell in conjunction with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and sponsored by the BEVA Trust and World Horse Welfare. It attracted representatives from 38 nations; including a strong turnout from Eastern Europe where horses sourced for slaughter often start their journeys, and Italy, which is the end destination for the majority of these horses.
The plight of horses sourced for slaughter was the main focus for discussion and the key issues raised for immediate address were:
- The practical enforcement of the current regulation at the beginning, middle and end of journeys;
- Consistent enforcement of the current regulation across all EU member states;
- That horses transported for slaughter should receive the same regard for their welfare as competition and leisure horses;
- The lack of adequate assessments of fitness to travel, leading to diseased horses being transported greatly increasing the risk of transmitting infectious diseases across Europe. These non-compliant shipments should be tackled through robust and thorough veterinary examination at each stage of the journey, coupled with rigorous identification procedures for every horse to ensure traceability.
Delegates also examined the long-term need to change the attitude of Italian consumers, raising awareness of the current welfare issues related to their preference for fresh meat, labelled as Italian produce. In addition they discussed the impact on equine welfare of increased profits in sourcing horses in Eastern Europe and then transporting them long distances for slaughter.
Dr Campbell said: “The atmosphere throughout the day was one of collaboration and determination to succeed. Proper enforcement of the current regulation is the key to welfare improvements, as is the need for a system of best practice to drive a change in cultural attitudes about how horse meat is produced.
“A process of education is necessary so that consumers understand the welfare issues associated with long-distance transport and start demanding accurate information about where the meat which they are buying originally came from, and how far the horses travelled to slaughter. We are all in agreement that vets have a pivotal role to play in both education and enforcement, and that they want to play it.”
Jo White, director of campaigns at World Horse Welfare, said: “The veterinary profession has a pivotal role to play in safeguarding the welfare of all horses transported, whether to slaughter or for other reasons. Through carrying out thorough assessments of fitness to travel and supporting colleagues faced with difficult decisions, vets can fulfil their role of protecting horses from unnecessary suffering.
“World Horse Welfare has been campaigning on this issue for over eight decades; we strongly believe that the best way to ensure a long-term difference for the horse is by working in partnership. This event has provided a valuable opportunity to do just that.”
BEVA Trust chairman Sandy Love concluded: “The Equine Transport Forum and the BEVA Trust Equine Transport Enforcement Award are both practical tools with which to address some of the major equine welfare issues of our time. The BEVA Trust is proud to support both of these worthy projects.”
Nominations for the annual BEVA Trust Equine Transport Enforcement Award are open and can be made via the FVE and the BEVA Trust. The award will be judged by the FVE working group on transport, and will be awarded for the first time in November 2011.
For the programme, abstracts or presentations from the forum, visit www.fve.org/events/index.html#conferences