Horses travelling for slaughter often face harrowing journeys across Europe

Horses travelling for slaughter often face harrowing journeys across Europe

Horses still face gruelling journeys to slaughter despite new welfare strategy

By Katy Islip

General news

20 June 2012 15:10

A charity has expressed disappointment after the European Council agreed to support a new animal welfare strategy but failed to review transport regulations for horses travelling to slaughter.

World Horse Welfare (WHW) welcomed the unanimous decision to support the European Commission’s strategy on the protection and welfare of animals, but had hoped the council would also order an immediate review of how long horses can be transported for.

The charity is campaigning for changes to Transport Regulation EC 1/2005, and particularly the introduction of a short, maximum journey limit of nine to 12 hours for all horses transported to slaughter or further fattening.

WHW chief executive Roly Owers said: “We call on the Commission to immediately introduce a short, maximum journey limit for horses in line with scientific opinion.  The Commission knows this is right. The EU Parliament knows this is right.  The Member States that called for change, including the UK, Sweden and others, know that it’s right.  And the more than one million EU citizens who signed a petition calling for a short limit on all animal journeys to slaughter know this is right.  There is simply no excuse not to make changes for horses.

“We applaud the Council for showing a commitment to better animal welfare, but we are deeply disappointed that they chose not to seek a review of the laws governing transportation to slaughter under which around 65,000 horses needlessly suffer each year.  The scientific evidence shows horses cannot cope with these gruelling journeys, and scientists at the European Food Safety Authority have called for a short, maximum journey limit of 12 hours for horses.  We see no reason to delay the introduction of this limit.”

Yesterday’s vote (June 19) saw the council support the commission’s strategy on the protection and welfare of animals, and it encouraged the commission to do more for animal welfare.

The failure to request an immediate review of the transport regulation comes despite the commission admitting severe welfare problems persist and that the law isn’t in line with current scientific knowledge. Instead, the commission was urged to develop good practice guides which could include a maximum journey limit, but this is unlikely to be legally binding.

Read more about WHW’s campaign and support its efforts by visiting