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    Horse passport system to be overhauled by Defra in wake of horsemeat scandal

    NewsMonday 25 February 2013
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    The changes have come about after the whole debacle surrounding the horsemeat scandal. 

    The current EU laws require all horses to be issued with passports, which record whether they have received medication which would make them unsafe to eat. 
     
    There has, however, been a large amount of evidence showing that the current passport system in the UK, is easily open to fraud and abuse. 
     
    “For the system to work, it must have the understanding and confidence of horse owners, veterinarians and the general public,” said David Mountford MRCVS. “We need to change the system, but we also need to re-establish its integrity with greater compliance and appropriate enforcement.”
     
    As there is little scope to change the EU Regulation requiring horse passports soon, all parties agreed the focus must be on changes to its implementation to deliver the widest possible benefit to the equine sector. 
     
    World Horse Welfare reported that this will be an enormous task as it will require fundamental behaviour change among the country’s 500,000 horse owners as well as for Local Authorities, veterinary surgeons and dozens of Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs). It was agreed to jointly develop proposals over the next six months for rapid implementation.
     
    It was also agreed upon that a reinvigorated central database of all the horses in the UK was a necessity for any effective system of horse identification to work. 
     
    “The need for the UK to have one central database where horses can be identified and located is immensely important to the equine industry which contributes £7 billion per year to the economy,” said Andrew Finding of the British Equestrian Federation, the National Governing Body for Equestrian sport. “I am pleased the Government agrees that an effective IT system is necessary to underpin a more effective passport system.”
     
    In a further development that could protect the welfare of thousands of vulnerable horses each year, the Secretary of State agreed to Ministerial support for negotiations to amend the Tripartite Agreement which permits the free movement of horses without health certification between the UK, Ireland and France. Since the agreement, which originally applied only to sport horses, was extended to cover all horses in 2005, movements of lower value horses and ponies between the three countries increased dramatically. This has created a number of welfare problems for the vulnerable horses being transported, opened the door to infectious disease and appeared to make horse trading an attractive cover for criminal activity. The sector council had been pressing for the agreement to revert to its original scope to apply only to racing, Thoroughbred breeding and elite sport horses – a position the Government supports.
     
    Roly Owers of World Horse Welfare, a charity that had long pressed for restrictions to the agreement extended in 2005, called the promise of Ministerial involvement “proportionate to the risk this current free-for-all poses to horse welfare and health, and will no doubt remove the attraction of horse dealing to criminals. There is no benefit to this destructive, reckless trade, and so much protection we should be offering to these poor horses.”
     
    Picture courtesy of World Horse Welfare
     
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