Exports and imports from/to the UK

Horse export and import laws in the UK should be better enforced to protect biosecurity and their welfare.

Horse export and import laws in the UK should be better enforced to protect biosecurity and their welfare.

Many horses entering or leaving the UK do so without proper checks. UK laws regarding the export and import of horses should be better enforced to help stop non-compliant movements to and from the rest of Europe which can pose welfare and biosecurity risks.   

In 2017 8,356 horses were imported into the UK and 17,491 horses were exported from the UK to other European Union Member States according to TRACES. This figure does not include movement between the UK and Ireland.   

We believe that that many horses and ponies are leaving UK ports without undergoing any of the required checks on their documentation. In addition, we are concerned that without intelligence-led checks, in addition to occasional spot checks, on the welfare and identification of horses at the border, equines who are not fit-for-transport or who are travelling without the correct identification are being exported/imported.  By not carrying out these checks, it is impossible for the enforcement agencies and government to know whether the laws passed to protect equines in movement are being complied with. 

There have been no declarations of horses being exported for slaughter for many years; however, we question the reality of this as horses and ponies are exported for a variety of reasons and there is no way to guarantee that a horse declared as being exported for riding will not be sold at a market for meat. Until there is full traceability within and outside of the UK it is a challenge to truly know where exported horses end up and it would be difficult to enforce a ban on export to slaughter.

Opportunities once the UK leaves the European Union 

In 2018, the UK Government launched a call for evidence on controlling live exports for slaughter and to improve animal welfare during transport after the UK leaves the EU. While we agree in principle that a ban on live animal exports and imports for slaughter should apply, we also recognise that currently there are no licensed equine slaughterhouses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with only four located in England (and we believe only one currently accepting equines). Therefore, the nearest slaughterhouse may not be located in the UK but in Ireland or France.  

Our priority is to ensure that equines are slaughtered as close to origin as possible, so it may be that a maximum journey limit of 9-12 hours better protects the welfare of horses going to slaughter, as opposed to a ban on export at this current time. Of course, if a maximum journey limit is imposed for those going to slaughter outside of the UK then this would need to be enforceable. The UK would need to work with EU Member States to check that these horses are reaching their intended destination and are not being transported on.

Read more: 

Our position on Equine ID and traceability

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