As welfare charities we were disturbed and deeply concerned by Monday’s (19/07/2021) BBC Panorama programme. It highlighted a number of issues that are not solely connected to racing, many of which the welfare charities have long been trying to bring to public and Government attention.
It showed horses being transported for slaughter over many miles, across country borders and in some cases while suffering with injuries such as severe lameness, in direct contravention of horse transport regulations. It also showed falsification of passports and failures in the equine ID and traceability system and the concerning treatment of horses in a slaughterhouse.
The racing world can help to drive improvements and we understand the British Horseracing Authority and other representatives of the industry including the Horse Welfare Board will be meeting to discuss the programme in more detail. However, we believe there are wider questions that need to be answered: why did it take undercover footage to reveal these issues when CCTV is now standard in abattoirs? Can we have faith that horses sent to abattoirs will be treated humanely? How can our ID system be shored up to prevent fraud and profiteering from these vulnerable animals at the end of their lives?
We would encourage all equine owners to make plans and provision for their own animal’s end of life care and we are calling on the Government through Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to act on promises to improve our Equine ID system – making sure the system is fit for purpose, enforceable and enforced – and ensure welfare is paramount both in horse transport and during their end-of-life care.
Please see our recent Britain’s Horse Problem Report for more detail on many of the issues raised by the programme.