• Vets are frequently required to advise owners on the irrevocable signing out of the food chain in the horse’s passport.  It is necessary to balance the “convenience” of signing out against the unknown long term welfare implications for the horse.

  • While there are some restrictions on medicines that can be used in food producing horses, and a requirement to maintain medicines records, the availability of the ‘essential medicines list’ provides equine veterinary surgeons with an expanded pharmacy that can be used in the horse to maintain clinical outcomes and welfare standards in most horses without a need to exclude the animal permanently from the food chain.

  • The cost and commitment of keeping a horse can become an unmanageable burden to some owners and the horse can fall into a spiral of neglect. Euthanasia may be in the best interests of the horse but the cost of euthanasia and disposal are significant and can be beyond the means of a cash strapped owner.

  • A horse that has not been excluded from the food chain has a potential way out. In these circumstances humane slaughter in the UK for human consumption can offer a dignified end to the horse’s life.

  • Owners need and deserve honest, pragmatic professional advice on signing their horse out of the food chain. As vets we should ask ourselves whether a horse will need prohibited drugs such as phenylbutazone?

  • Signing a horse out of the food chain today could have welfare implications later in life.  A valueless carcase can also be a cash liability.

 

*beva.org.uk/passports_drugs_guidance