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CLA Asks DEFRA To Get A Grip On Horse Export Debacle

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is asking DEFRA to clarify a number of issues which are throwing angry horse owners into confusion.

In Britain horses cannot be exported live unless they meet a minimum value - a rule that allows exports of valuable competition horses, racehorses and breeding stock but effectively bans their export for food. However Government now appears likely to lift this ban, seemingly to conform with the rest of Europe where horses are considered livestock and enter the human food chain.

Although the EU seems willing to continue Britain's exemption on minimum value grounds, DEFRA no longer wants to make horses a special case, allowing them to be exported as livestock, a move that is causing widespread anger amongst the horse industry.

James Bush, CLA Assistant Regional Director says: "The derogation from the live export regulations has worked for years and seems an eminently sensible solution to a contentious issue. It allows our equine industry to earn valuable foreign currency for this country whilst avoiding upsetting the general public. For once the EU appears happy to let this continue, but there appears to be no desire from our own Government to listen to public opinion and leave things as they are."

"DEFRA are insisting that horses must now be considered livestock, and that they cannot make a special case to do otherwise. Yet the CLA has been lobbying for years for this very classification, which would allow breeders and trainers welcome agricultural benefits. The Equine industry is becoming increasingly important in rural areas as farmers are put under increasing pressure to diversify, and considering horses as livestock would provide a much-welcomed boost.

The uncertainty over live exports follows the recent chaos over horse passports. All horses, ponies and donkeys in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a passport by 30th June 2004. The passports are issued by a variety of agencies, and unlike human and cattle passports will incur VAT, seen by the equine fraternity as yet another direct tax on rural businesses. Each EU Country is operating the scheme differently, and England now requires the further expense of a Vet to complete the application.

Mr Bush continues: "It is bad enough having different systems, but the system in England has been badly launched and the rules changed part way through. Passports were intended to ensure that horses intended for the food chain would be traceable; a move that was seen as unnecessary in this Country. Perhaps the proposed lifting of the export regulations explains why the government was so keen to saddle us all with more red tape.

"Ironically it might prove to be passports that keep horses out of the food chain. If you say that your horse is not intended to enter the food chain, then it never can."

The CLA says that anyone with an interest in horses should ask their local MP to put pressure on DEFRA to clarify the situation once and for all. If the Government is to continue to stop live horses from being transported overseas for slaughter than it has to act now.


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Updated: October 2005.