World Horse Welfare is urging everyone to sign a petition to the European Commission to take heed of scientific evidence from the European Food Standards Agency and impose a maximum journey limit of nine to 12 hours for the 50,000 horses transported to slaughter across Europe every year.
Under existing EU legislation, the journey to the slaughterhouse for many horses can last for days with little chance to eat, drink or rest along the way.
Legally, transporters must make one hour food and water stops for the horses every eight hours and after 24 hours the horses must be unloaded and given 24 hours rest at a control post before continuing their journey, but to which there is no limit.
Whether any of this is adhered to depends on the level of enforcement and this differs widely from country to country.
With the help of World Horse Welfare’s campaigning, many improvements to conditions have been made and the number of horses transported long distances to the slaughterhouses has fallen by 70% in the last 15 years.
This petition is the next step in the charity’s journey to end the long-distance trade by 2027.
Scientific evidence shows that horse health and welfare deteriorate on long journeys, and so World Horse Welfare’s latest petition calls on the European Commission to take heed of the recommendation from its own scientific advisors at the European Food Safety Authority to impose a 12 hour maximum journey limit for horses.
In addition to its positive impact on horse welfare, this proposed change in the legislation would also make it easier for transporters to comply with and enforcement agencies to enforce the legislation as shorter journeys could be better harmonised with driver working and rest times.
World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, said: “We have been campaigning for 90 years against needlessly long journeys for slaughter in terrible conditions, and with the support of the public, including through previous petitions, we have helped to make so many improvements.
"Horses destined for slaughter in Europe are no longer loaded onto vessels by crane, nor left in trains for days on end at borders – and with the partitions we helped to introduce significant injuries and fatalities are far less common.
"These changes have also helped to reduce the numbers transported by 70% over the past 15 years, but 50,000 horses still need our help. We have set an aim to end these long journeys for slaughter by our centenary in 2027 and we need the full force of public support behind us.
“It is completely unacceptable that the very legislation put in place to protect animal welfare would allow so many thousands of horses to be subjected to journeys as long as 24 hours at a time when the evidence is clear that such long journeys are bad for horse health and welfare.
"We firmly believe that introducing a nine to 12 hour maximum, finite journey limit will help improve conditions even further, enable better compliance and enforcement of the law and reduce the risk of the spread of disease as horses’ immune systems are so prone to being compromised on long journeys.
"While we fully recognise that the length of journeys is not the only factor, it is a key one – especially when combined with the lack of water, food and rest that we unfortunately still see.
“Horses should be slaughtered as close to source as possible and we hope to one day see the needless long-distance trade consigned firmly to history.
“I urge everyone to please sign our petition, and encourage your friends and family to do so as well. We know that petitions work and have helped bring about change - every signature counts.”
When World Horse Welfare (previously the International League for the Protection of Horses) was founded in 1927, it was with the goal of putting a stop to the terrible conditions in which British working horses were transported to the continent for slaughter.
Having achieved changes to UK laws that should protect British horses from indiscriminate export for slaughter, World Horse Welfare has focussed on ending needlessly long journeys horses endure as they are transported across mainland Europe for slaughter – a significant number of which travel from Eastern Europe to the south of Italy.
To sign the petition please visit: http://bit.ly/2pWImPB