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Major Conference Seeks to Lift Blinkers on EU Equine Health, Welfare

13 October 2015

EU - Preparations are under way for the first ever EU level conference on the welfare of horses, donkeys and mules and applications to attend are welcome.

The conference, which will be hosted by Julie Girling MEP, in cooperation with Eurogroup for Animals and the European Horse Network, will be held in the European Parliament on the 21 October, from 14:00 – 17:00 CET.

With an estimated 7 million animals, the equine industry is not the most animal intensive industry in Europe. It is, however, one of the most effective in terms of creating value and jobs. Yearly the equine sector generates approximately 100 billion euros for the EU economy as well as a high number of rural jobs in regions that may lack other types of economic activity.

The conference builds on the conclusions of the ground-breaking report ‘Removing the Blinkers: The health and welfare of European equidae in 2015’, which was published in June this year. Authored by World Horse Welfare and Eurogroup for Animals, and with involvement from a vast array of stakeholders from industry, sport, academia and government, the report provides the first attempt ever to map the EU equine population, while also setting out both legislation and practices affecting the equine industry.

It unveils a growing, economically significant sector with equids fulfilling a wide range of roles, from elite athletes generating millions of euros to family pets to draught animals supporting subsistence farmers. Covering this impressive range of roles during their lifetimes, equids often fall between cracks of laws designed to protect farm animals and companion animals.

Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals commented: “Equines have a unique place in European civilisation and history. For 5000 years, they have been used for transport, haulage, construction, leisure, therapy, sport, on farms, and of course for companionship.

“Whilst this continuing diversity of use has ensured that equines have remained close to humans, it has also created problems when seeking protection for them in law.

"Broad-based legislation often designed for all farm animals will not necessarily address the specific requirements of equines, and could, perversely, even lower the welfare standards as a consequence. Likewise, laws which have a narrower scope may only capture equines in very specific circumstances, potentially leaving them without the same levels of protection.

Julie Girling MEP, who is hosting the conference and Chairs the MEP Horse Group added: “The economic value of the equine sector to the European economy is huge and yet equines have been largely ignored in comparison to other animals.

”It is time to take stock of the equine sector within the EU, and to examine at how we can protect the health and welfare of Europe’s horses, donkeys and mules, and at the same time maximise the value of this sector for Europe’s economy through some very simple initiatives.”

During the conference, key speakers from the European Commission, the European Parliament as well as the equine sector will respond to the report’s conclusions and suggested next steps on key issues such as:

  • Identification and registration;
  • Welfare in transport;
  • Welfare at slaughter;
  • Responsible ownership and
  • Rural development.

Those interested in attending the conference should register by Friday 16 October, using the contact details below.

For registration please provide Lina Christensen: with the following information: Full name, passport number, nationality and date of birth.

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