Our history

Antwerp horse

World Horse Welfare was founded in 1927, as a campaigning organisation to prevent the export of live British horses for slaughter.

Ada ColeThe charity's founder, Ada Cole, was spurred into action after witnessing a procession of British work horses being unloaded and whipped for four miles to slaughter in Belgium. From the beginning, she defined our approach - combining practicality with passion.

A decade after our foundation, we achieved our first major milestone - providing protection for British horses being exported for slaughter - this legislation is still in place today. Over the years, we have continued to campaign, while expanding our activities to include welfare and protection around the world.

Other landmark events include the opening of our first horse rescue centre in Britain in 1949 and our first international training course in Morocco in 1985.

You can read our timeline below and you can explore our Facebook album of photos from our archives, set up to celebrate our 85 years of helping horses.


Our timeline



Ada Cole founds the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) after seeing work worn horses on the docks of Antwerp destined for slaughter.



The ILPH-driven Exportation of Horses Act is introduced which effectively stops the export of live horses for slaughter from Great Britain.



Our first horse rescue centre opens in Britain.



Introduction of Acts protecting horses transported by sea and at slaughterhouses thanks in large part to the ILPH.



ILPH engages in activities to improve horse welfare in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Greece and South Africa.



ILPH rehomes scores of old police horses and pit ponies, emerging as the largest equine rehoming charity in Britain.



Our first international training course is launched in Morocco after encouragement from Sir Peter O’Sullevan.


HRH The Princess Royal becomes our President.


ILPH hands a petition containing 3,286,645 signatures to the European Parliament to demonstrate public feeling against long-distance journeys of horses to slaughter. 


Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 comes into force, improving conditions for horses transported long distance to slaughter in Europe. While incorporating some of our recommendations, this legislation still does not go far enough.


The ILPH is re-branded as World Horse Welfare. The charity becomes associate member of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) after almost three decades as their welfare advisors.



Written Declaration highlighting the horrific horse slaughter transport trade is adopted by the European Parliament.



A leading international charity, we have eight training programmes in place on three continents, and we continue to work to change legislation and attitudes to horse welfare, including through our campaign to end the long distance transportation of horses across Europe to slaughter. Our UK-wide network of Field Officers investigate and resolve welfare problems, and we run four Rescue and Rehoming Centres where horses in need can be rehabilitated and find loving new homes through our rehoming scheme – the largest of its kind in the UK. Find out more about our work.