MEPs back horse welfare report

A report recommending a wide range of measures to improve the welfare of horses and donkeys across Europe has been backed by MEPs.

Initiatives proposed in Conservative MEP Julie Girling's report, which was approved today by the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, cover sectors such as farming, tourism and sport.

The recommendations include:

* The production and circulation by the European Commission of good practice guidelines on caringfor horses and donkeys, including responsible breeding and end of life care.

* The dissemination of information to tourists to help them decide whether to use services involving working horses and donkeys.

* New guidance on donkey milk farming and increased inspections of farms.

* The launch of a pilot project under which funding would be targeted at farms committed to good welfare practices.

* A shorter maximum journey time for all movements of horses for slaughter.

Mrs Girling said: "Horses and humans have been best friends for thousands of years. Responsible ownership and care of horses should always be expected as a minimum but given the number of the health and welfare problems faced by Europe's horses and donkeys today, it is clear that it is too often neglected. Action is therefore not only necessary, but also overdue.

"I strongly believe that the initiatives outlined in this report serve as an important first step to fully ensure that welfare is sufficiently upheld. This report does not intend to call for additional legislation. I want to improve and strengthen the rules that already exist and to tackle ignorance through putting together guidance based on best practice across Europe."

The EU equine sector is worth more than €100 billion a year and the equestrian sports industry alone supports 900,000 jobs, often in rural areas.

Mrs Girling added: "It is in everyone's interest for the animals involved in these businesses to be healthy and productive. Many of the measures I propose are simple to introduce but would make a big difference to both the welfare of equines and their economic potential.  It is a win-win for all involved."

The report is expected to be considered by a full session of the European Parliament in March. If approved, it will be passed to the European Commission with a recommendation for action.