British Equestrian Federation presses government for wider issuing of passports to UK horses and ponies

The British Equestrian Federation has proposed to government that far wider distribution of passports to the UK horse and pony population would benefit the equine industry.

The BEF was responding to a request from the Ministry of Agriculture for views on how it should carry out an EC decision aimed at preventing horses being slaughtered for human consumption which have been administered with certain veterinary medicines in the previous six months for which no Maximum Residual Level (MRL) has been set.

BEF supports the option suggested by MAFF whereby all registered horses would have to be issued with a passport which would have to include an additional section requiring owners to declare whether the horse is ultimately intended for human consumption, and recording details of veterinary medicines administered.

BEF further supports the MAFF proposal that horses and ponies kept for breeding and production would be issued with passports but at a later stage when the animal is moved from the premises where it is kept, or within a year of birth, which ever is earlier.

MAFF has estimated that issuing up to 200,000 new passports could be involved for registered horses and ponies that currently do not require one, at an average price of £5 per passport.

The Ministry estimates that a further 320,000 new passports would be required for horses and ponies kept for breeding and production that currently do not have them.

The BEF’s view is that severely limiting the scope of passport issuing would leave large areas of the horse population unmonitored, and therefore open to infringements of EC directives, with serious consequences if harm should be transmitted from horses to humans through the food chain,

BEF points out that there are major incremental advantages to the British horse industry if much wider registration of the country’s equine population is achieved through the EC legislation.

Wider registration would assist greatly in reducing haphazard breeding of stock of little value. BEF agrees with equine welfare organisations that wide registration would alleviate current welfare problems associated with those horses and ponies of little commercial value which suffer neglect and other forms of deprivation.

Whilst compulsory breeding programmes are out of the question, BEF feels that far wider registration would additionally assist efforts to raise standards of competition horse breeding where the UK is lagging behind its European competitors who have embraced wide-spread registration and grading of stock.

BEF appreciates that the cost of passport issuing would be borne by horse and pony owners, but feels that the commitment of paying £5 per animal is not inordinate when compared with the overall cost of keeping a horse or pony properly.

BEF recommends that the registration process should be handled by the British Horse Database which was set up to achieve the above objectives in raising standards.

BEF made its response to MAFF through the British Horse Industry Confederation, the body set up jointly with the racing and Thoroughbred breeding sectors to speak to government with one voice on behalf of the horse industry.

Michael Clayton, Chairman of the British Horse Society and British Horse Industry Confederation, said: “At their invitation, BEF and British Horse Society representatives attended a meeting with the British Equine Veterinary Association representatives on this issue. Some vets present supported our view, but we note with disappointment that the official BEVA line is to recommend the most limited of passport issuing, largely they fear it would add to veterinary surgeons’ “bureaucratic burdens”.

“We pointed out that the use of para-medics could greatly lessen veterinary involvement and costs to owners in passport issuing. Better identification of individual animals will undoubtedly be possible in future through the use of micro-chips, making the old fashioned passport procedures involving drawings of horse markings more streamlined. Technology improvements will undoubtedly make the passport issuing process far more practicable.

“We are pleased that BEVA officially supports our view that wider registration of British horses and ponies is essential in the overall interests of raising standards, although they do not think this legislation is the way to achieve it.

“The reality is that this is probably the best chance of achieving this goal for a generation, and if the minimalist view prevails the British horse industry will have lost a major opportunity to gain a level footing with standards attained on the continent where competition horse breeding is so much more profitable and successful. Just a glance at the breeding of the winning placings in Olympic showjumping and dressage supports this view.”

For more information, contact:

Andrew Finding, Chief Executive BEF – tel: 02476 698871
or Michael Clayton, Chairman BHIC – tel: 01572 724424

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Updated: October 2005.