Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman meets with World Horse Welfare to highlight how the truth behind horsemeat is no laughing matter


World Horse Welfare chief executive met George Freeman MP to discuss the horse crisis in England and Wales and the horse slaughter trade.

George Freeman MP at World Horse Welfare Hall Farm

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers met with Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman on Friday 1st February to discuss the emerging horse crisis in England and Wales - and the terrible welfare abuses of the horse slaughter trade.

“Horsemeat is no laughing matter.  Where there is horsemeat, you can bet there has been suffering,” said Roly.  “Horses suffer on long distance journeys across Europe to slaughter, or as we have discovered even in Britain, they may suffer needlessly during slaughter while the number of horses slaughtered in Britain has almost doubled since the recession.”

In what they are calling an emerging ‘horse crisis’, Britain’s major welfare charities have identified 6,000 horses at risk of needing to be rescued or given new homes in England and Wales this year, have warned government and the public that taking in even a fraction of these would overwhelm charity resources. The drop in horse sales prices combined with indiscriminate overbreeding has led to greater numbers of horses not getting the care they need, being fly grazed or tethered, or taken to the slaughterhouse.  Government figures show that around 5,100 were slaughtered in the UK in 2009 rising to more than 9,400 in 2012.

“There is a role for slaughter in the UK, but it must be done humanely, according to the law, and the Food Standards Agency needs to improve its tools of enforcement,” said Roly. In light of footage revealed by Sky News of illegal welfare abuses of horses at a slaughterhouse in Cheshire, World Horse Welfare is calling for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses that take horses (sign the petition). 

World Horse Welfare and other welfare charities are also pressing for tougher laws to encourage responsible horse ownership and so prevent more suffering. In Europe, the charity has been pressing the European Commission for a short, maximum journey limit for horses transported long distances across Europe to slaughter, so saving them from the immense misery and suffering of travelling for days on end with injury, disease, exhaustion and dehydration. 

All of these issues were discussed on Friday with George Freeman MP today who said:

“When you understand the tragedy behind horse meat, there is very little to laugh about. We have good laws that protect the welfare of animals at slaughter and we need these properly enforced – CCTV can help with that.  But clearly people have to take responsibility for their animals, especially such powerful, intelligent and long-living animals as horses. It is unacceptable that people can breed them or buy them and then not care for them. We need tougher laws to address fly grazing and an enforceable way to link a horse to its owner.”

Roly Owers continued:

“I have no doubt much of the horse meat from Europe is the product of great suffering. We need at the very least a 9-12 hour journey limit in line with scientific evidence that shows how bad these long distance journeys are for horses.  But we must look at ourselves too.  The reason many horses in Britain end up in slaughterhouses in the first place is because people breed too many of them despite having no ability or desire to care for them.  This unthinking breeding of poor quality horses must stop.” Owers.