Saturday 18th of March 2023

Charity Reports Decrease in Number of Horses Transported Long Distances Across Europe for Slaughter

International charity, World Horse Welfare, has campaigned against the long-distance transport of horses across Europe to slaughter for more than 90 years and the latest figures obtained show a large decrease in the numbers subjected to these journeys, which can last for up to 24 hours at a time.

In 2012, data indicated that around 50,000 horses endured long-distance road journeys covering up to thousands of miles but the most recent figures from 2016 show this number at around 30,000 – a reduction which World Horse Welfare attributes to a number of factors including campaigning by the charity and other welfare organisations.

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, said:

“This is another hugely encouraging step in our long-running campaign to end this vile and needless trade once and for all. We believe that there are a number of factors that have contributed to this significant reduction but campaigning has undoubtedly been a major influencer and we would like to thank everyone who has lent their support to our campaign over the years.

“But we know that 30,000 horses enduring these exhausting long journeys to slaughter every year is still shocking and we are committed to seeing that number reduced to zero by 2027. I urge everyone to sign and share our petition as widely as possible so that together we can complete the job of ending the long distance transport of horses to slaughter in Europe forever.”

In May last year, World Horse Welfare launched a petition to the European Commission urging them to impose a 9-12 hour maximum journey limit which would not only improve equine welfare but would also fit better with driver’s working hours too. The petition currently has around 29,000 signatures but the charity is hoping to reach 100,000 by early 2019 whilst Britain’s voice will still be heard in Europe. Sign the petition.

The figures show a steady drop in the numbers of horses transported long distance across Europe for slaughter with around 165,000 transported in 2001, around 54,000 transported in 2012 and now around 30,000 in 2016 – the most up to date figures available.

There are a number of factors which World Horse Welfare believes have played a part in the reduction:

Campaigning efforts by welfare organisations, including World Horse Welfare

A trend in consumers eating less horse meat in general and eating more chilled meat – rather than fresh meat

The charity understands that a fundamental reason for the downturn is due to the EU Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the Protection of Animals during Transport which improved some conditions for horses, such as the use of partitions in lorries to prevent trampling – one of many recommendations advocated by World Horse Welfare’s campaign when working to help shape the legislation. The introduction of partitions reduced the number of horses that could be fitted onto each lorry making the transport less economical while other requirements in the strengthened law made the trade more tightly regulated.

In addition to continuing to gather signatures on the petition, World Horse Welfare has also commissioned consumer research in Italy to understand the motivations for Italian consumers buying and consuming horse meat – seeking to understand if animal welfare issues could impact buying habits and consumption.

The charity will also be working on further research into equine welfare and behaviour during the journeys to slaughter and at destination and also investigating the levels of non-compliance in the transport trade which is vital in showing the European Commission that the law as it stands is not only detrimental to welfare but is also unenforceable and unenforced.

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