A historic moment: UK bans live export of horses for slaughter - Veterinary Practice
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A historic moment: UK bans live export of horses for slaughter

Pivotal new law reaches end of parliamentary journey to ban live exports of horses, ponies, and donkeys for slaughter

In a landmark achievement culminating a century’s efforts, World Horse Welfare is celebrating the pivotal Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill reaching the end of its parliamentary journey. Receiving its third and final reading in parliament, 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.

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, expressed his elation, stating, “Today is a defining moment in our nearly century-long and founding campaign. 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 overwhelming support in a 2020 public consultation with 87 percent of respondents in favour, follows a dramatic 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 critical 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 – with only 19 of the animals declared for export. Many were unfit for the journey, including pregnant mares, unhandled youngsters and a severely arthritic mare who required euthanasia. At least one animal was infected with Equine Influenza, showing the significant biosecurity risk that smuggled animals pose.

As the UK legislation moves forward, World Horse Welfare pledges to continue its advocacy work within the EU, focusing on ending long-distance transport of horses for slaughter. The charity also expresses deep gratitude to all supporters and campaigners who have stood by their side, honouring the legacy of founder Ada Cole and achieving a pivotal goal in animal welfare.

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