A historic moment: UK bans live export of horses for slaughter

We are celebrating a monumental victory in animal welfare

Posted on 14/05/2024

A historic moment: UK bans live export of horses for slaughter

In a landmark achievement culminating a century’s efforts, World Horse Welfare is celebrating the pivotal Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill reaching the end of its parliamentary journey. Receiving its third and final reading in Parliament today, this historic legislation will ban the live export of horses and other livestock for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain and now just needs Royal Assent before it passes into law.

“Today is a defining moment in our nearly century-long and founding campaign. The passage of this law ensures that no horse, pony or donkey will legally be exported from Great Britain for slaughter and while this is a monumental step forward, plenty more needs to be achieved to effectively combat the illegal export of equines from the country. This will rely on the new law being effectively enforced and the introduction of full traceability of all equines, and we look forward to working with Defra to achieve this. In the 21st century it is preposterous that equine ID is still based on a paper-based system, which simply provides an open door for horse smugglers.”

Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare Chief Executive

The legislation, which received overwhelming support in a 2020 public consultation with 87% of respondents in favour, follows our dramatic demonstration last April. Prominent figures including Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox, influencer This Esme, and equestrian legend Jane Holderness-Roddam participated in a symbolic Ride to Parliament, to emphasise the urgent need for reform.

Our recent rescue of the ‘Dover 26’ – a group of horses and ponies, some of whom were almost certainly intended for slaughter in Europe – highlights the critical need for robust enforcement of this new legislation. These animals were found on an overloaded and filthy transporter at Dover – with only 19 of the 26 declared for export. Many were unfit for the journey, including pregnant mares, unhandled youngsters and a severely arthritic mare who required euthanasia. At least one animal was infected with Equine Influenza, showing the significant biosecurity risk that smuggled animals pose.

As the UK legislation moves forward, World Horse Welfare pledges to continue its advocacy work within the EU, focusing on ending long-distance transport of horses for slaughter. The charity also expresses deep gratitude to all supporters and campaigners who have stood by their side, honouring the legacy of founder Ada Cole and achieving a pivotal goal in animal welfare.

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