The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill is reaching the end of its Parliamentary journey, having received its third and final reading yesterday (14 May). This historic legislation will ban the live export of horses and other livestock for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain and now just needs Royal Assent before it passes into law.

“This is a defining moment in our nearly century-long and founding campaign,” said Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare. “The passage of this law ensures that no horse, pony or donkey will legally be exported from Great Britain for slaughter and while this is a monumental step forward, plenty more needs to be achieved to effectively combat the illegal export of equines from the country. This will rely on the new law being effectively enforced and the introduction of full traceability of all equines, and we look forward to working with Defra to achieve this. In the 21st century it is preposterous that equine ID is still based on a paper system, which simply provides an open door for horse smugglers.”

The legislation, which received great support in a 2020 public consultation with 87% of respondents in favour, follows a demonstration by the charity last April. Prominent figures including Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox, influencer This Esme, and equestrian legend Jane Holderness-Roddam participated in a symbolic Ride to Parliament, to emphasise the urgent need for reform.

The recent rescue by the charity of 26 horses and ponies, some of whom were almost certainly intended for slaughter in Europe, highlights the need for robust enforcement of this new legislation. These animals, known as the ‘Dover 26’, were found on an overloaded and filthy transporter at Dover (pictured top) – with only 19 of the animals declared for export. Many were unfit for the journey, including in foal mares, unhandled youngsters and a severely arthritic mare who required euthanasia. At least one horse was also infected with Equine Influenza.

As the UK legislation moves forward, World Horse Welfare has pledged to continue its work within the EU, focusing on ending long-distance transport of horses for slaughter. The charity has also expressed “deep gratitude” to all supporters and campaigners who have supported the cause, honouring the legacy of founder Ada Cole and achieving a pivotal goal in animal welfare.

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