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FOUR PAWS International welcomes ground-breaking report on Horses in the EU

This report shows the Equines’ unique role, but also lists grave welfare issues.

FOUR PAWS International welcomes the launch of Eurogroup of Animals’ and World Horse Welfares’ joint report: ‘Removing the Blinkers: The health and welfare of European equidae in 2015’ which was launched yesterday 11 June. This first ever report investigates the scale of the horse sector in Europe, legislation affecting it and the key health and welfare challenges of the EU’s equids. During the European Parliament Intergroup for Animal Welfare and Conservation* in Strasbourg the two organisations presented the findings of the report, which among other recommendations calls for species specific legislation to protect horses, donkeys and mules who so often fall between the cracks between legislation designed for farm or companion animals. 


Equids are uniquely versatile and fulfil roles as leisure and companion animals; working animals in tourism, forestry, agriculture and food production; as well as animals used for therapy and training and elite athletes in sports. Industries reliant on and built around them generate more than 100 billion euros to the economy.  More than any other species they can change roles and may have many different owners in the course of their relatively long lives. But there are still many unanswered questions related to equids such as: How many equids are there in the EU? What are they used for? Are existing laws sufficient to protect them? What contribution do equids make to society and what are the main health and welfare problems in the EU equine population?  The European Commission and the established European Commission Equine Steering Committee recognises this and identified five areas of specific concern to look into: (i) Identification and registration, (ii) Welfare at transport, (iii) Welfare at slaughter, (iv) Responsible ownership and (v) Rural development.

© FOUR PAWS | George Nedelcu

This report is the first attempt to look at these concerns and to map out the sector, laws and health and welfare problems of Europe’s equine sector. The report poses a lot of questions due to the lack of data on equids but it also provides clear recommendations as to how these very adaptable animals can be better protected for the good of animal health and welfare and also the European economy.


Robert Hengl, Head of competence centre Horses at FOUR PAWS International comments: “This joint effort that lasted over 18 months shows how versatile, and unique this species are and how difficult it is to tackle all the issues relating to equids. That’s why they deserve EU legislation which is specific to their needs. Many questions concerning equids welfare still have to find solutions. Their place in the society is one of these open points, especially when it comes to their end of life. FOUR PAWS wants to play an important role in also actively promoting the welfare of equids. For this reason, FOUR PAWS will never accept that equids are sent to death because there are too many."