First ever EU guidelines on horses endorsed by EU Platform on Animal Welfare

The sixth meeting of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare yesterday endorsed the first ever pan-European guidelines to good animal welfare practice for the keeping, care, training and use of horses – a landmark moment for horse welfare at EU level. 

Back in 2016, Eurogroup for Animals and World Horse Welfare identified gaps in knowledge as the number one issue leading to poor equine welfare across the EU. These guidelines, produced by the voluntary initiative group on equines under the EU Platform on Animal Welfare – a group chaired by Denmark, with the participation of eight other Member States and representatives from veterinarians and civil society – will now be promoted across the EU. 

“This was a great day for horses, and an important milestone in our journey to improve understanding on how to keep and care for the EU’s equines. We are pleased that the guidelines received such positive feedback and universal endorsement,” said Jessica Stark, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at World Horse Welfare. “We are so grateful to Denmark for chairing this group and the excellent collaboration which produced this result.  These easy to follow guidelines will have real value, especially to people who have no national legislation or existing guidance on equines. We hope the EC will continue with this journey by supporting its translation and dissemination.”

The work produced by the voluntary sub-group on equines, like those on fish and pets, has really shown the value of Member States’ commitments to working to improve animal welfare. Their central role was only reinforced by the presentation from the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU, who outlined results from a survey on actions that should be taken to improve animal welfare in the coming term. The results demonstrated widespread support for a review of current legislation, including by way of an EU animal welfare framework law. 

Eurogroup for Animals was also encouraged by the clear desire from Member States to see an increased role for animal welfare within EU and third country trade – including increased collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health to support increased international animal welfare standards.

“We really welcome the efforts of the Finnish Presidency, and believe that their efforts should send a clear message to the incoming Commission as to the level of expectation that Member States and citizens have for the coming term,” said Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals.

While Eurogroup for Animals remains committed to the idea of an EU Platform on Animal Welfare in the next term, this support is predicated on the platform having a clearer role as an advisory group on any new legislation, with concrete outputs and resources to match its potential. Member States have so far demonstrated what the platform can achieve. We now hope that the next Commission follow their example, and will deliver for the benefit of animals and to fulfill the clear wishes of millions of Europeans.

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