UK to Introduce Central Equine Database after Endorsement of Tougher EU Laws in Wake of Horse Meat Scandal

A Commission proposal to revise the rules for the identification of horses has been endorsed by EU Member States' experts. One of the basic aims is to prevent the inadvertent or fraudulent slaughter for human consumption of horses which must be excluded from the food chain.

With nearly seven million equidae in Europe, the revised rules will require foals to be issued with a single passport having a unique identification number, before their first birthday. The passport also serves as a medical record and will serve the horse over its lifetime. All horses born after 1 July 2009 will need to be micro-chipped. Technical security features aimed at reducing the risk of falsified passports have also been put in place.

The introduction of a compulsory centralised database in all Member States will assist the competent authorities to better control the issuance of the passports by different passport issuing bodies. It will also substantially simplify, for the keepers, the procedures for updating the identification data in both the passport and the database of the issuing bodies.

Equine Sector Council Chair Jeanette Allen said:

“The Equine Sector Council welcomes these proposals which will be a big step forward for horse welfare in the UK and Europe.  The new regulations are a significant achievement for Britain’s horse sector and Defra who have worked closely and collaboratively together to ensure a better system for equine identification.   More robust standards of documentation and a central database in every European country will help to reduce fraud and improve traceability, owner accountability and disease control planning across the European Union – so helping to protect the valuable horse sector.”

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers said:

“Horses in the UK will especially benefit from these tougher laws as the UK’s system of equine identification could arguably be said to be one of the most complex, and abused, systems in Europe.  One of the key horse welfare challenges we have is linking a horse to an owner and an overall lack of compliance and enforcement.  With more than 75 passport issuing organisations of varying standards and no central database, finding a horse’s owner and enforcing the regulations was effectively impossible. We have always been clear that a central database is a fundamental element in building a system that is more workable and enforceable, which can better protect our horses.  Now we need to make sure the revised UK Regulation maximises compliance, something that has been shockingly low up in many areas until now.”

Jeanette continued: “The new regulations will help, but they alone will not solve the problem. A law is only effective if it is enforced, and this is especially true for identification.   We will now focus on working with Defra so that they create a central database that is fit for purpose, introduce batch-controlled retrospective microchipping of all horses and ponies and fixed penalties for non-compliance. Government must also support better enforcement which has been a low priority.  We look forward to discussing all of these issues with Defra and continuing to work with them on a brighter future for horses in the UK.”

The Regulation will apply from 1 January 2016. However, EU countries not already having a centralised database will have until 1 July 2016 to put one in place.