Equine welfare on European Commission agenda

Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to hold its first ever equine expert meeting in Brussels on 7 May 2014. The meeting will gather experts from across European Member States to explore the state of play on equine welfare across Europe and the role of regulation. Currently there is no specific EU legislation in place to safeguard the welfare of Europe’s equines despite the contribution of equine industry to Europe’s economies. The meeting will also formally kick-off of a European research project on equine welfare conducted by Eurogroup for Animals and World Horse Welfare.


“Our aim is to better protect the welfare of equines, the future Animal Welfare Framework Law is an opportunity to cover equines and harmonise the fragmented legislative situation across the EU which the Commission should publish in the near future’’,said Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals.


She added “Although Europe has experienced an economic downturn, the equine sector continues to grow and as equines are one of the most frequently traded and transported animals in Europe they are in urgent need of protection”.


Eurogroup for Animals and World Horse Welfare will use the equine expert meeting to kick-off a thorough research project on equine welfare across Europe. This research will result in a report with recommendations on equine welfare and, if required, legislation. The report will be published by the end of 2014.

 ‘”Across Europe we see equines falling in between the cracks of laws designed to protect farm animals and pets. This is in part because equines are uniquely versatile animals which can play so many different roles during their lives, from working animal, to sport animal, to pet, to food source. As a result, equines face numerous challenges to their welfare and health, and indeed human health may also be affected. We now have an excellent opportunity to identify what existing welfare legislation is operating in Member States, where the gaps are, where existing industry practices are working well and where additional legislation would benefit the industry,” said Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare.


Europe is home to at least 6 million horses and every year 70% of the world’s equine events take place across Europe. In many Member States equine sports are among the most popular leisure activities, and the equine industry is a source of income and growth across the European economies. Europe’s lead in equestrianism is partly due to Europe’s strong equine history and traditions. As a natural consequence Europe needs to address its responsibility for the safety and protection of its equines.

Whilst equine animals on farms have the same level of protection as any other farmed animal the European Commission recognises that there are gaps in the welfare legislation when they are considered as companion animals. We need to consider what impact this has had and how to respond. This expert meeting is the very first step in this process,” added Andrea Gavinelli, Head of the Animal Welfare Unit, DG SANCO.

source: press release eurogroupforanimals.org