Members of the European Parliament have been urged by Europe’s leading equine welfare organisations to back an initiative* by Julie Girling MEP (ECR, UK), paving the way for a raft of actions to dramatically improve the welfare of equines throughout the European Union. These actions include:
- The dissemination of guidance for the care and ownership of an equine, from birth to end of life, based on the ‘Five Freedoms’†
- The use of innovative funding mechanisms to reward responsible on-farm ownership of equines, especially with regards to Small and Subsistence Farms (SSFs)
- Empowering tourists to reward those businesses that use use equines in a responsible way
Mrs Girling, a longstanding champion of better equine welfare, outlined the key elements of her initiative to Members of the Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals in Strasbourg, which stem from a ground-breaking report outlining the challenges facing Europe’s equine sector, Removing the Blinkers, which was produced by Eurogroup for Animals in 2015. The full report will be presented to the Agriculture Committee on 12th October.
Commenting after the Intergroup meeting in Strasbourg, Mrs Girling said:
“More often than not, it’s mere ignorance rather than cruelty that leads to poor welfare conditions for individual horses and donkeys in Europe, however the animals may be used. Sadly, this ignorance also carries a financial cost, often leading to underproductive or sick animals that all too often become a burden. Yet it should be the other way around – happy, healthy equines should only add value to rural businesses and bring joy to their owners too.
“The equine sector already adds over €100bn to the EU’s economy each year, and is a leading rural employer in many Member States. Yet it could do so much more if our equines were better cared for. The Commission wants to work on non-legislative initiatives during its five year term, and wants to create new jobs and economic opportunities. At the same time, Europe’s citizens want to see more action on animal welfare, and I believe that we have a golden opportunity to improve the lives of millions of equines across the Union which can improve the lives of their owners too.”
World Horse Welfare Director of Communications, Jessica Stark, spoke at the Intergroup Meeting. She said:
“Eurogroup for Animals’ members, including World Horse Welfare, have been delighted to work with Mrs Girling on her report, and to take forward many of the recommendations from our seminal report, Removing the Blinkers.
“This draft report, if adopted by the European Parliament, will go a long way to addressing some of the most basic welfare concerns facing equines in Europe, and particularly with regards to the treatment of working equidae. Whether it concerns donkeys who are farmed for their milk, or horses who are used on farms or who are sent to slaughter, much can be improved through better training, handling and access to professional care. Given the importance of the equine sector to economies and jobs, having good guidance and support for equine welfare will help not only horses but the millions of people who rely on them. We will support Mrs Girling’s efforts in whatever way we can to ensure that her initiative is a success, and ask all Members of the European Parliament to support it in the same spirit.” she added.