European Parliament Conference on Equine Welfare

October 23 2015 | EHN, General

The European Parliament hosted a conference on Equine Welfare on October 21, 2015 in Brussels. The reason for the conference was the publication of the report Removing the Blinkers: The health and welfare of European equidae in 2015, which investigates the state of play for the EU equidae population. The conference was hosted by European Parliament Member Julie Girling, together with the European Horse Network and Eurogroup for Animals. Some more members of the parliament, and officials from the European Commission attended the meeting as well.
The European Horse Network (EHN) was founded in 2009 (FEIF being one of the founding members) and this was the first time an official EU conference took place based upon the activities of EHN. This is significant, as equidae (horses, donkeys and mixed breeds) are so far not recognized by the EU and most member countries as a special group of animals. Their breeding, keeping and use is not fitting in the traditional understanding of farm animals (produced as part of the food chain) or luxury/sport products (used by people in their professional or leisure activities). One of the aims of the EHN is to put the horse on the European political agenda.
The report Removing the blinkers is available on the FEIF website, and it is worth to pay more attention to it as the conclusions affect the position of Icelandic horses (breeding, keeping, transport, used and end-of-life) in all EU-countries and countries following EU-rules as well.
The report identifies a large economic significance for the horse in general, in terms of sport and sport activities, leisure/pets, (agricultural) production (including meat) and rural development. The estimated value is 100 billion Euro per annum in the EU.
With an estimated population of 7 million animals in the EU, the Icelandic horse (about 250.000 registered worldwide) is only a small share, but current laws and rules affect our horses as well.
Main issues in the report are: identification and registration, welfare in transport, welfare at slaughter, responsible ownership and rural development.