"Long overdue" horse welfare proposals launched.

08-Nov-2016 @ 15:00

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"Long overdue" horse welfare proposals launched.

New guidelines to improve the welfare of the EU's 7 million horses and donkeys have been unveiled by Conservative MEP Julie Girling.

Mrs Girling's proposals were presented to the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee today and cover animals used in a broad range of activities, from farming to tourism.

Her recommendations include:

* A shorter maximum journey time for all movements of horses for slaughter;

* A commitment by Member States to inspect slaughterhouses licenced to handle horses;

* The launch of a pilot project under which funding would be targeted at farms committed to good welfare practices.

* The dissemination of information to tourists to help them decide whether to use services involving working horses and donkeys;

* New guidance on donkey milk farming and increased inspections of farms.

* 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.

* Review of the impact of VAT on equestrian enterprises.

Mrs Girling said: "Action in this area is necessary and long overdue. Horses for slaughter are being transported throughout the EU and to third countries, particularly Russia, in sometimes very poor conditions; the inspection of slaughterhouses and donkey farms is inconsistent and tourists have no way of knowing how the horse pulling their carriage is treated. Through clearer guidance, better inspection and the sharing of best practice we can begin to change that.

"Horses and donkeys play a major role in many areas of the economy including sport, farming, forestry, transport, tourism and therapy. It is in the interests of all these sectors, not just the animals themselves, that the highest welfare levels are promoted. A healthy horse is a productive horse."

"Taken together I believe the initiatives I have outlined would increase awareness, information and incentives and could help unlock the full economic potential of the equine sector while at the same time protecting the welfare of these unique animals."

It is estimated that the EU's equine industries are worth over €100 billion a year, with the equestrian sports sector alone supporting 900,000 jobs. Employment is often in rural areas, with a high proportion of women involved.

Mrs Girling's report is expected to be voted on by the committee in January. If subsequently backed by the full parliament it will be passed to the European Commission with a recommendation for action.

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