The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a report on the responsible ownership and care of equine animals, initiated by the Committee of Agriculture and Rural Development. Animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe welcomes the adoption of this report, which highlights the need to improve the living conditions of millions of equine animals, including horses, who share a multidimensional and unique bond with humans.
In particular, the report urges:
- An increase in the number the audits carried out in slaughterhouses outside the EU that are authorised to export horsemeat to the EU and suspending such imports when EU traceability and food safety requirements are not met;
- The formulation of guidance, facilitating and enhancing scientific research on the welfare of equidae at the time of slaughter;
- Avoiding, when possible, the transport of live equidae to slaughter and ensuring the compliance with EU welfare rules on the transport of animals;
- Supplying statistics on a regular basis notably on the transport and slaughter of equine animals in the EU.
Humane Society International/Europe is, however, concerned by the proposed establishment of a withdrawal period system for horses and other equids treated with unauthorised substances, which would allow animals presently excluded from the food chain to be slaughtered for human consumption.
Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe, stated: “While we applaud MEPs for adopting an ambitious report highlighting the specific welfare needs of horses, donkeys and other equidae, we strongly oppose the proposed establishment of a withdrawal period system that aims to facilitate the slaughter of an increased number of equids. Such system would potentially create additional animal welfare problems and would seriously undermine the EU’s efforts to strengthen the traceability of horsemeat.”
- Since 31st July 2010, the EU has required that the only horses allowed to be slaughtered for export within the Union are those with a known lifetime medical treatment history and medicinal treatment records that show they have not been treated with banned substances and satisfy the veterinary medicine withdrawal periods.
- In 2014, the European Commission suspended the import of Mexican horsemeat imports owing to serious traceability and food safety concerns.
- In 2016, the European Commission adopted new requirements to regulate the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries more strictly and require that horses are resident in the country of slaughter for at least six months before they may be for slaughtered for export to the EU.