Roadmap to better equine welfare in the European Union

In May 2014 the European Commission hosted the first ever equine expert meeting. We wrote about it in another article. As a follow up on this meeting in 2014 World Horse Welfare and the Eurogroup for Animals just published a report called ‘removing the blinkers’. The report provides an overview of the equidae and the equine sector in the EU. It uncovers welfare problems, analyses legislation currently affecting them and recommends how legislation can better protect horses in Europe.

Although it was difficult to determine the exact amount of horses per country, conservative calculations tell that there are around 7 million equidae in the European Union.
The equine sector provides employment to at least 896.000 people across the EU, is worth over Euro 100 billion per annum and uses at least 2.6 million hectares of land in the EU.

The report signals challenges in the legislation around equidae. Not only are there considerable differences across the member states, but also within the EU legislation, there are at least three official definitions of ‘equidae’ and different sub categories.

The report furthermore list the equine welfare problems equidae encounter.

The most commonly perceived problems are:

• Problems with the environments and ways in which equidae are kept, including:
– environments with a lack of space;
– long periods of confinement without access to turnout, and environments which do not provide
social interaction;
– a lack of knowledge of proper equine care among equid owners, and;
– neglect (failing to meet basic needs such as the need for food or water).
• Training and handling methods, including welfare problems in sport.
• The use of equidae for meat.
• The treatment of working equidae.
• A lack of access to professionals such as veterinarians, farriers to provide hoof-care and saddlers to
provide well-fitting harnesses.

Based on this list the report makes recommendations to the European Commission to improve animal health, equine welfare and traceability.
The report provides lots of interesting case studies.

You can download the full report here here.

source: world horse welfare, Removing the blinkers: The health and welfare of European Equidae in 2015.