Removing the Blinkers
How many horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are there in the EU? Where are they? What are they used for, and how are they kept?
These questions may sound simple - but until recently, they remained unanswered. Many European equines and large parts of the EU's equine sector were simply invisible to Europe's policy-makers - meaning that animal welfare and health policy and legislation could not take account of these animals' needs.
World Horse Welfare and Eurogroup for Animals, at the request of the European Commission, have now released a new report which is the first step towards filling this information gap. Our research has revealed that equines in the EU are hugely versatile, fulfilling many roles - from a wild animal to a working horse; a pet, to an elite athlete; and even a source of food. Many parts of the sector are unknown quantities - such as donkey milk farms - and many equines still suffer welfare problems.
Worryingly, there is a serious lack of information about many aspects of the sector. Even simple information such as the equine population of each Member State has been difficult to find, with many countries not able to supply one reliable figure. Despite the EU having had equine identification legislation in force for over a decade, it is clear that the system is still not functioning as well as it could.
Our report provides a five-year roadmap to better equine welfare in the European Union, making recommendations for the European Commission, Member State governments and the equine industry.
Read the full report here or scroll down the page to download the Executive Summary.
- There are around 7 million equines in the European Union. France, the United Kingdom and Romania have the largest equine populations.
- The equine sector is worth at least €100 billion (£73 billion) every year.
- Belgium has the largest number of equines per person - with one equine for every 21 people. In Slovakia, there is only one equine for every 1,000 people.
- Although the lives of equines vary greatly between different Member States, sadly the welfare problems that they suffer do not. Animal welfare organisations in half of all Member States report unsuitable keeping environments as being among their most serious equine welfare problems.
We will now press for our recommendations to be adopted, including:
- A more robust equine identification system
- Species-specific health and welfare legislation that meets the unique needs of equines
- Better access to information on health and welfare for equine owners
To find out more
Read the full report here or download the Executive Summary: