Representatives from across the equine sector have agreed to work together to overhaul the horse passport system within six months.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has announced new government plans for Europe-wide testing of meat for horse DNA.

The future of the horse passport system was discussed at a recent meeting between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and representatives from the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare.

The meeting, called by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, was held in light of issues surrounding the recent horse meat scandal, where beef-marked products were found to contain horse meat.

The discovery also led to human health concerns, when tracings of the horse painkiller bute was found in some products.

According to the horse passport system, those horses that are to be used for human consumption should only be administered with certain medicines deemed safe. The discovery thus highlights failings within the system.

Discussion surrounding changing the system were welcomed by all in attendance.

"We are very encouraged Defra has recognised the inherent weaknesses of the current passport system and by its open-minded approach to exploring practical solutions," commented Jeanette Allen, chair of the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare steering group.

"We need to seize this moment to implement radical changes to the whole system of equine identification in the UK that is both proportionate and easy to enforce," she added.

Days later at the National Equine Forum (NEF), Mr Paterson went on to explain that, though there are new EU plans for horse DNA testing in meat, there are no current plans to move to a single horse passport issuing body.

"We will work together to introduce new quality standards for passports, making them more difficult to tamper with," he said.

The NEF event also saw the launch of the Equine Disease Coalition's new Equine Biosecurity Checklist, as well as the National Equine Youth Forum.

(Source: mrcvs.co.uk)