Horse welfare during transport

Transportation can be very stressful for many horses but we can take steps to reduce this.

Transportation can be very stressful for many horses but we can take steps to reduce this.

Horses (including ponies and donkeys) stand apart from other livestock species as they are transported for a range of purposes from breeding and slaughter to leisure and competition.  

Across Europe the transport regulations that sets out minimum regulatory requirements is (EC) No 1/2005.  This currently applies to the UK as well, alongside the Animal Welfare Acts it provides general protection of animal welfare and require those transporting animals to meet the five welfare needs. While there is a need to improve (EC) No 1/2005 to ensure greater protection of equine welfare during transport; at a minimum the requirements set out must be maintained. 

There are improvements that we believe need to be addressed to improve the welfare of equines during transport. These include:

  1. Journey times – in particular ensuring they are compatible with driver hours and that equines being transported for slaughter are not transported for longer than 9 hours, unless located in a region of the UK that has no licensed slaughterhouse within a 9 hour journey limit. By their very nature, equines transported to slaughter may not be fit-to-travel long distances as they are either unhandled, are unfit for transport e.g. have been injured and/or are low welfare.  
  2. Derogation for registered equines – we recognise that ‘high performance’ equines being transported specifically for BEF/FEI and BHA events may be of a higher value, at that point in their lives, and the conditions they are transported in, are more likely to meet high welfare standards as it is in their owners’/keepers’ interests that they arrive at their destination in good condition. In addition, these horses are also inspected before competing. However, it does not mean these horses are not at risk. If the derogation for  these ‘high performance’ horses is to be maintained then we believe the industry regulatory bodies need to ensure that those competing at their events are putting the welfare of their horse first, including considering mandatory rest-periods before / after an event for equines that have travelled long distance and developing a transport code of practice. Those equines which are ‘registered’ but are not ‘high performance’ should be covered by all aspects of this legislation. All horses have the potential to become ‘low value’, e.g. through injury or reduced performance, even if they are registered.  
  3. Compliance and enforcement – non-compliance of EC 1/2005 is a direct contributing factor to poor welfare of horses during transportation. For example, we have evidence that equines are being transported that aren’t fit for their intended journey and vehicles that don’t meet the higher standards are being used for long-distance journeys which means that welfare is compromised as there is not adequate space allowance or ventilation. 
  4. Rest stops should be undertaken in appropriate environments to ensure there is no added stress to the equine and increased potential of injury. 
  5. Horses should be appropriately trained to be transported and their needs before, during and after any journey fully understood and met by all owners, carers or anyone involved in the horse transport business.

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