SNP MEP Praised For Horse Welfare Efforts

24 April 2009
The charity World Horse Welfare has today praised the efforts of MEPs such as Alyn Smith in raising concerns in Brussels about the treatment of almost 100,000 horses each year as they are being transported thousands of miles into and across the EU to slaughter.

Earlier in 2008 Mr Smith wrote to the European Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, to ask the Commission to investigate claims that the EU's rules on the protection and promotion of animal welfare during transport are being ignored and openly flouted in many instances.

The EU's rules, which came into effect in 2007 and are now currently under review, are supposed to ensure the welfare of live animals, and horses in particular, being transported long distances across Europe to slaughter.

This followed concerns from a number of Mr Smith's constituents the length and breadth of Scotland as well as from World Horse Welfare at the appalling conditions in which thousands of live horses are still being packed into overcrowded metal lorries and transported to slaughter either in soaring or freezing temperature.

Many of these lorries are failing to stop and rest the horses off the lorries after 24 hours of travelling as requires, as well as failing to feed and water the horses. Dehydration, extreme exhaustion and injury are just some of the ways in which horses, ponies and donkeys suffer when travelling the slaughter route from source countries such as Poland, Romania and Spain to Italy, the main destination. These unnecessary journeys take days - one frequently used route passes 180 slaughter houses, meaning needless suffering continues rather than the horses being destroyed and their chilled carcases shipped to consuming countries.

Speaking from Strasbourg,Smith said:

"I'm delighted my efforts in seeking reassurances from the Commission on horse and animal welfare are recognised and supported by such a worthy organisation as World Horse Welfare, which is dedicated 100% to caring for horses and has campaigned long and hard with its Make a Noise campaign to bring an end to the live long-distance transportation of horses for slaughter in the EU.

"I'm also delighted to be working alongside "World Horse Welfare" on this issue and am determined to keep the pressure on the Commission. The EU regulations in this area are very clear in terms of the animal welfare measures that have to be put in place for animals transported over eight hours, especially when it comes to rest stops and ensuring there are adequate levels of feed and water."

Mr Smith's comments were echoed by Jo White, Director of Campaigns and Communications for World Horse Welfare:

"We are very grateful to Alyn and to all our supportive MEPs for their help with the Make A Noise campaign. At such a critical stage in our campaign to end the long-distance transportation of horses for slaughter in Europe political support such as this is vital. The current Regulation does not go far enough and our Dossier of Evidence contains a wealth of information on the horrific suffering that takes place every day on these journeys.

"We desperately want to see the European Commission take our eight recommendations, as detailed in the Dossier, into consideration in order to protect these vulnerable horses. People can help us to end this pointless suffering by joining the 108,000 people who have signed the Make A Noise petition so far at www.makeanoise.co.uk."

A copy of the parliamentary question which Mr Smith has lodged with the European Commission on horse and animal welfare is below:

Concerns have been raised with me by a number of my constituents concerning the apparent sudden and dramatic increase in the numbers of horses being transported for slaughter for human consumption into the Netherlands. The Eurostat database reports that in 2006, four horses were transported for slaughter, in 2007, the number of horses transported for slaughter was 35, 986 and in 2008, 28,731 horses were transported for slaughter.

Can the Commission confirm that the above figures from Eurostat are correct? Can the Commission also provide me with the necessary figures from the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) database for the number of equidae entering the Netherlands for slaughter for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008? I am also aware that there would appear to be some discrepancies between the Eurostat and ISTAT databases on the number of equidae entering Italy for slaughter for human consumption. Can the Commission provide the necessary figures from the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) database for the number of equidae entering Italy for slaughter for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008?