Our work in Romania began in 2004. Romania is a country that has great respect for the horse but a loss of skills and knowledge led to a desperate welfare situation, particularly among the country's one million working horses.
After carrying out initial work to research the problems in Romania and to build important relationships, Project Romania began in 2006. This was a five-year campaign that involved seminars and training schemes at veterinary faculties throughout the country, and training for farriers and saddlers. The aim of the project was to help educate owners and those looking after horses; equipping them with the skills to ensure their horses were healthy and fit for work. This complemented training focused on practical elements of horse care such as farriery and nutrition. We held regular seminars aimed at student veterinary surgeons and several tailored to the needs of practising veterinary surgeons. We also ran seminars for the country's official Government vets.
In addition to the seminars and training schemes, we've worked at Government level to push horse welfare up the political agenda in Romania. During 2008 law 205/2004 regarding the protection of animals was introduced. In 2009, we discussed a long-term equine health and welfare strategy with key decision makers; the aim of which was to focus horse owners, equine professionals and the Government on improving infrastructure and working conditions for horses.
The legacy of Project Romania
Since 2011, we have had a reduced presence in Romania. We‘ll continue to work with the Asociatia Veterinara Ecvina din Romania (Romanian Equine Veterinary Association, or AVER); give advice and expertise on welfare issues and monitor the long-distance transportation of horses to slaughter. Through a strong partnership between ourselves, AVER and horse lovers across Romania, the work started back in 2004 will continue, helping to safeguard the future of the country's horses.
Collaborating with a number of other organisations, we launched a ground-breaking questionnaire in 2008 to find out about the standards in UK livery yards.
Livery yards are very popular in the UK for people who are unable to keep their horses and ponies at home. However, there is no record of how many horses are currently at livery or indeed the number of yards and the welfare standards under which they operate. Representatives from the British Equine Veterinary Association, World Horse Welfare, The British Horse Society, RSPCA, Association of British Riding Schools, South Essex Insurance Brokers, Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health set up a working party to carry out some research into UK livery yards so that they are better informed about standards.
More than 600 people responded, helping the group obtain a general picture of the range and standard of accommodation and services that livery yards offer, and revealing interesting, and in some cases worrying, findings:
- 41% reported that no records were kept relating to the movement of resident horses joining or leaving the yard
- 48% reported that there were no isolation facilities available on the premises
- 48% reported that there was no routine vaccination programme at the premises
- 37% responded that there was no routine procedure to exclude horses that may be showing symptoms of disease
The Stamp Out Suffering survey was run from April-July 2009 with the aim of establishing whether public perception of horse welfare abuse in the UK matched the reality seen on a daily basis by World Horse Welfare.
Our Field Officers investigate nearly 2,000 horse welfare concerns every year, a significant proportion of which are serious cases of neglect or abuse. As a charity, our aim is to not only stop horses from suffering, but prevent the types of horrific cases we have been involved with, including multi-horse rescues and incidents caused by ignorance.
We surveyed over 2,000 members of the general public to provide feedback on what they perceive to be the biggest horse welfare problems in Britain today. The questions were based around the ‘Five Freedoms’, which are the widely-accepted ideal standards for welfare:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress
Respondents were asked to rate the threat level in photographs of horses in various scenarios. Comment boxes and open-ended questions provided the opportunity to highlight what they perceived to be the main threats pictured in each scenario, and what they perceived to be the key welfare issues affecting horses in the UK.
The results showed that in many cases horse welfare problems are simply not recognised:
- Over half of the people surveyed either could not recognise an overweight horse or, if they did, had no idea of the dire health or welfare implications to the animal. In stark contrast over three quarters of the people surveyed believed being underweight was a threat.
These results will be used to shape our future projects. Find out more about our work in the UK.