of Minds at Horse Transportation Conference
Second International Conference on the Transportation of Horses,
funded by the ILPH, FEI, MSPCA and supported by Peden Bloodstock,
was considered a resounding success by one and all when it concluded
earlier this month.
shipping agents, insurers, regulators, engineers, flying grooms
and team managers came together with delegates from over 23 countries
to consider the best ways to transport top competition and breeding
stock by road, sea and air, and to discuss the various health and
safety risks involved.
experts went on to consider, along with agricultural engineers,
regulators and animal welfare groups, the contrasting plight of
slaughter horses on their final journey to the abattoir.
Carolyn Stull from the University of California and Timothy Cordes
from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) discussed how recent
research on stress and injuries in slaughter horses helped shape
the latest US Federal regulations.
White, ILPH Campaigns Manager, presented the findings of her recent
European field study and outlined ILPH plans to conduct observational
studies in the future. Similar to the US approach that had been
so effective, these studies would provide the ILPH with clear evidence
to support their argument to improve welfare of horses transported
over long distances for slaughter.
Alex Atock, Conference Secretary, "This Conference has proved
to be a rare opportunity to compare notes with experts from around
the world and to identify opportunities to advance our mutual cause
through better collaboration."
is hoped to organise another conference in the future.
International Conference on the Transportation of Horses
Hartpury College, Glos, 12-13 July 2003
Colin Roberts - Conference Rapporteur
(Saturday and Sunday Morning Sessions)
I would like to begin this report by thanking the generous sponsors
of this excellent meeting, namely the ILPH, the FEI, the MSPCA and
Peden Bloodstock. I would also like to thank our hosts, Hartpury
College, and all of the speakers who have made this event a success.
This short report can consist only of edited highlights and cannot
possibly do our speakers justice. With nearly thirty speakers, I
have an average of thirty seconds per paper to give you my personal
views of their important messages and your perspective may well
differ to mine, but here goes.
We began yesterday morning (12th July) with Catherine Kohn's excellent
summary of the First International Workshop on Equine Transportation.
Dr Kohn outlined some of the problems associated with equine transport.
Shipping fever is a major problem, causing signs of respiratory
disease with an incidence of up to 12% following long-distance road
transport and up to 30-40% following air transport. Dr Kohn reviewed
possible aetiologic agents of shipping fever:
The environment of the travelling horse may be significantly contaminated
with both particulate and molecular pollutants, including allergens,
irritants and infectious agents.
2. Ventilation is often poor, particularly in stationary vehicles
and aeroplanes and this is often compounded by high stocking densities.
3. Poor ventilation is often associated with inappropriately high
temperature and relative humidity.
4. Thermoregulatory responses to high temperature and relative humidity
involve increasing respiratory rate and depth, which tends to increase
inhalation of potential pathogens, whilst sweating causes dehydration.
5. Head posture has been shown to have a major influence on the
health of the lower airways and is probably an important factor
in the development of shipping fever.
Other problems associated with transport include weight loss (how
unfair that horses undesirably lose weight during travelling and
I don't!) and gastrointestinal disease (reduced water intake affecting
gut function and resulting in colic and/or diarrhoea, whilst equine
gastric ulcer syndrome may be predisposed by transport).
Other areas discussed at the First Workshop included vehicle design,
the effects of jet lag and the effects of transport on performance.
Dr Kohn discussed the importance of good pre-travel monitoring and
preparation, good transport methods, adequate time to recover upon
arrival and prompt therapy of sick animals.
I have dwelt a little on Catherine's comments as they provide the
background to our meeting and many of her points were echoed by
other speakers, including Jenny Hall and John McEwen. John McEwen
has vast experience of travelling with horses as a team veterinarian
and he stressed the veterinary problems of transport-induced diseases
such as shipping fever, colic and transport, taking as well as the
wider issue of transported horses as potential vectors for disease.
Our first session considered road, sea and air travel, whilst not
An interesting aspect of yesterday's sessions were the common threads
that run through many presentations and John began one of these
by stressing the importance of the entire team involved in travelling
horses - owner, shipping agent, transporters, grooms, Government
officials, vets, drivers, aircrew, etc. who all have important responsibilities.
John felt that there has been significant improvement in equine
transport but that there are still areas for improvement and research.
When transporting horses, he made little use of pre-medication with
antimicrobials and anti-inflammatories but stressed the need for
prompt treatment when disease occurs.
This session included some important discussions of the effect of
various different forms of transport. Vehicle design has a crucial
effect on health and welfare in transport. Peter Kettlewell's group
at Silsoe have demonstrated the counter-intuitive way in which air
flow occurs in road transport. Rather than air entering from the
front and passing down the lorry, it is pushed away by the moving
vehicle and sucked in from the back. Improvements to vehicle ventilation
can only be based on such scientific research; blindly placing air
inlets in the most convenient place is not acceptable.
In traditional farm species there has been considerable research
into the effects of transport and vehicle design. Peter's group
are now addressing equine transport and I am delighted that they
are involved in the ILPH research initiative investigating transport
of horses to slaughter.
John Collins considered the particular situation of ferry transport
for horses, drawing our attention to the problems inherent in such
journeys. His revelation of the best place to be on a ferry, on
the centreline, midships, and about level with the waterline may
lead to fights on future voyages!
Moving on to a different medium, Andreas Barth described to us the
intricacies of freight aircraft design and the ways in which such
craft are ventilated; an issue that is particularly crucial to their
Returning to the highways, Eddie Harper moved the discussion back
to the realm of the individual, counselling us about UK regulations
for drivers and stressing the vital roles of the driver and groom
and the importance of their training.
Tim Rolfe's presentation on the role of the flying groom was fascinating
and brought home to us the responsibility that these men and women
carry and the career path necessary for them to reach the required
level of experience for this role.
Jenny Hall has been team vet to the British Three Day Event Team
since 1999 and she provided us with further insights into her task
in providing not merely a 'fire brigade' service for injuries, but
a full care programme before, during and after the event. Jenny
stressed the importance of health monitoring, using appropriate
diagnostic tests prior to the event, to ensure that horses travel
in the best possible health. Such monitoring must begin early enough
to permit adequate time for treatment before travelling. Clinical
signs of disease are often not apparent until disease is advanced
and close monitoring and recording of the health of horses throughout
preparation, travel, competition, return and recovery permit early
detection and intervention when disease occurs.
Des Leadon has considerable experience of flying horses and reminded
us of the weight loss associated with flying. He pointed out the
low injury rate of <0.5% in horses during flight. Of concern,
however, was the impression that the incidence of shipping fever
has risen markedly with the introduction of jet stalls and there
is a pressing need for research to improve ventilation in these
The afternoon session concerned the 'Common Denominator', meaning,
I think, the individuals essential for the success of equine transport.
Tim Harris highlighted the different but complementary skills of
attendant, driver and flying groom and the wealth of knowledge that
they require. High quality training is vital and though I would
take issue with the contention that good stockmen are born not made,
the ideal must be a combination of natural ability, motivation and
The training theme was continued as Steve Hewitt explained the NPTC's
Certificate of Competence for Equine Handlers Transporting Horses.
If we believe that personnel involved in horse transport must be
well-trained, we must also have fair and adequate methods to assess
this and this scheme is an excellent example, the basic flaw of
the notion of self-certification having been brought to our attention
by Tim Harris.
Next, Joe Santarelli addressed the problematic issue of equine attendants
carrying prescription medicines. This as yet unresolved issue must
be clarified in a world where the majority of travelling equids
are not and will not be accompanied by a veterinarian.
The enormous role of the Atock family in this meeting was acknowledged
before lunch by John Smales and I would second that sentiment. Martin
Atock played his part by treating us to a fascinating insight into
the role of the shipping agent and the myriad details that he must
address. The amount of bureaucracy involved in transporting horses
was apparent and sadly this reminds me of another recurring theme
of this meeting - the number of occasions on which delegates have
reported the welfare of their charges being compromised by inefficient
bureaucracy. The welfare of horses is paramount to us all and we
must push for efficient handling of the paperwork required for moving
horses, without either compromise to the welfare of the individual
animal or threats to national biosecurity.
As United States Equestrian Team Manager Jim Wolf's responsibilities
in transporting his teams are also manifold, he detailed the amount
of planning that he has to perform - the importance of good planning
is another recurring subject emphasised by many delegates. His approach
to each new event on an individual basis is a good lesson and I
know that Dermot Forde was not the only member of the audience impressed
by Jim's solutions to the need for a new veterinary hospital or
a second aeroplane. Such an ability to generate spending power would
appear to be second only to that of my wife with my credit card!
The insurance underwriter's career depends on assessing risk accurately
and Emma Stamper's advise that we can avoid making claims by using
reputable staff and supporting development of training programmes
emphasised a major message of the second session.
At the end of an absorbing afternoon, I was however still unsure
whether I had grasped the real meaning of the title. Was the common
denominator the essential people or was it the horse? I attempted
to get the real answer from the Chairman, but, sadly, as we have
heard from Dr McEwen, the resident physician, Dr. Andrew Higgins
had an unfortunate accident whilst consulting with Professor Kohn
on Saturday evening and had to retire with his leg securely bandaged
- we send him our very best wishes. Unfortunately the only quote
that I can pass on from him is "Watch it! Accidents can happen
to you too!"
Whilst the first day focussed very much on the welfare of the individual
horse in transit, this morning's discussion (13th July) of European
and International Rules and Regulations inevitably concerned itself
very much with issues of international biosecurity.
Ueli Kihm provided an introduction to the important work of the
OIE, as it aims to inform on the occurrence of disease outbreaks
and their control, to co-ordinate studies into surveillance and
control of animal diseases and to set standards for trade in animals
and animal products. Robin Bell then outlined the ways in which
EU Directives are aimed to prevent spread of disease via a harmonised
policy of regulation of notifiable diseases, control methods, movement,
imports to the EU and Border Inspection Posts.
The Directives must cover a wide range of transport circumstances
from regular, permanent importation to specific decisions to facilitate
individual equestrian events. Biosecurity is protected by a combination
of pre-transport veterinary inspection, certification of non-contact
with infectious disease, appropriate laboratory testing and suitably
sanitary transport. Robin's final point is, I feel, an important
one - the aim is to minimise risk, since risk cannot be wholly eliminated.
Denis Simonin continued the European theme with a discussion of
the new draft Directive for animal transport as it relates to horses.
He prefaced his remarks by noting that in the year 2000, 359,000
horses were slaughtered for meat in Europe. Of these 32% came from
countries outside the EU and the welfare of these animals is of
course of great concern to the ILPH. And of course, EU regulations
do not apply to third countries. Denis noted that horses for slaughter
travel much more than any other species destined for human consumption.
The proposed new Directive will aim to provide better enforcement
and improved standards and it will focus on the long distance journeys.
We must do our utmost to ensure that new European legislation protects
adequately all horses during transport.
The Conference's Fourth Session, just before lunch, was its shortest,
but one of the most thought provoking. Dr Peter Timoney discussed
factors that have led to the massive increase in international movement
of horses over the past two decades and cautioned us about the increased
risk of disease transmission that has inevitably accompanied this.
With transport of horses and equine semen at an all time high, the
single most important factor for dissemination of equine infectious
diseases is international trade.
Dr Timoney described several frightening contributory factors to
disease spread which, to my naïve mind, seemed largely avoidable.
To remind you they include: lack of awareness of new knowledge of
infectious diseases and their control, inadequate disease surveillance
and poor implementation of disease control standards, as well as
unreliable laboratory testing and inadequate pre-export testing
and certification. Unless these areas are addressed we will continue
to face unnecessarily high dangers of catastrophic outbreaks of
Our final speaker Sunday morning was Dr Frits Sluyter who discussed
the FEI's approach to the problem of competition and diseases. He
stressed the need for co-operation with national veterinary authorities
for equestrian sport to exist at an international level. Annually
there are more than 100,000 starters in FEI events and 40% of them
make border crossings to compete. Frits acknowledged the importance
of controlling spread of disease, but also discussed the conditions
to which competition horses are susceptible. The major body systems
affected are the respiratory, digestive and locomotor systems and
the FEI acts to minimise these in a variety of ways including a
Code of Conduct for the treatment of horses in which equine welfare
is the paramount issue, mandatory veterinary inspection before and
during events, medication control, welfare-orientated research and
veterinary reporting of the events.
I would like to end by once again acknowledging our sponsors: ILPH,
FEI, MSPCA, and Peden Bloodstock and also thank the ILPH for sponsoring
my position at the University of Cambridge.
Conference Chairman and Rapporteur
(Sunday Afternoon Session)
I would like to open this Sunday afternoon session on Slaughter
Horse Transportation by saying that, although it is an inseparable
part of the transportation conference, it provides a stark contrast
to the preceding discussions.
As we have heard from earlier speakers, top competition horses are
transported in the best conditions and with the very best care possible.
But when it comes to slaughter horses on their final journey, the
operatives have little incentive to take particular care of their
charges, or improve their welfare.
As we have heard from our first speaker this afternoon, Dr. Carolyn
Stull's research, while US-based, is highly relevant to the question
of slaughter horse welfare worldwide. In particular, Denis Simonin's
ongoing work within the EU touches on many areas of concern highlighted
in her work. Carolyn has proven scientifically that over-stocking
causes more falls and Denis told us earlier that there is already
provision within the EU legislation for maximum stocking densities,
and that the new Directive would aim to improve this further still.
Only two horse slaughter plants remain in the US, which means most
slaughter horses are subjected to long journeys by road. Dr. Carolyn
Stull reviewed the latest US research, which helped shape the January
2002 federal regulations governing the transportation of slaughter
horses. Her research compared the conditions found in the two-tier
"pot-bellied" trailers, to those found in the conventional
straight-deck trailers. The pot-bellied trailers, increasingly popular
in the trade because of their higher capacity, have been the focus
of a public outcry, on welfare grounds, because of the limited headroom
Carolyn's findings were not as cut-and-dried as popular public opinion
- she found that although horses transported in the pot-bellied
trailers did experience a higher rate of lacerations and abrasions,
in general, horses suffered greater chronic stress levels (as measured
physiologically through the ratio of blood neutrophils to lymphocytes)
in the straight-decked trailers. She also found that loading densities
cannot be looked at in isolation - in summer, horses provided with
more floor area suffered less stress, weight loss and sickness -
however, year-round, injuries showed a twofold increase when there
was more floor space per horse. Overall, though, the need for greater
floor space per horse is supported by her findings relating the
number of falls to varying stocking densities and driving conditions.
Erratic driving with hard braking, rapid acceleration and sharp
turns led to a greater proportion of falls in the high-density group
Dr Stull evaluated studies conducted by Dr. Temple Grandin with
regard to dehydration during long-term transport, both through experiments
using non-slaughter horses, and through observations of nine loads
of actual slaughter horses. Unsurprisingly, there was an incremental
rise in dehydration through 24 hours of transport, and dehydration
reached severe levels after 24 hours in the summer. Another area
of concern to Carolyn was the condition of some of the horses prior
to loading, many of which could not be considered fit to travel.
The proportion of severe pre-existing welfare conditions (such as
emaciation, laminitis, fractured limbs and weakness) was much greater
than the proportion of injuries suffered during transit.
The next speaker, Dr. Timothy Cordes from the US Department of Agriculture
(USDA), talked about his mandate from US Congress to regulate the
commercial transportation of slaughter horses. The USDA has been
a proactive agent in improving slaughter horse welfare in the US
- it initiated funding for research into the commercial transport
of slaughter horses. Funds which were allocated to Dr. Carolyn Stull,
Dr. Temple Grandin and to Dr. Ted Friend (who had discussed his
work in developing an on-board watering system in the separate Veterinary
Research Group Meeting running concurrently with this Conference).
Yet, like the European Commission, the USDA needs to consider strong
representations from the slaughter horse industry itself, whose
interests lie largely in maintaining the status quo.
Jo White's presentation spotlighted the suffering of horses travelling
from Poland on their way to Italian slaughterhouses. As ILPH Campaigns
Manager, Jo had recently returned from two fact-finding trips in
Europe to gain an updated view of what is currently occurring within
this trade. While she found that campaigning bodies such as the
ILPH and their supporters have achieved a degree of overall improvement
in the welfare of these animals, her report highlights two main
areas of concern.
Firstly, EU Enlargement in 2004 will result in the removal of many
Border Inspection Posts which have until now facilitated the enforcement
of better standards. Secondly, the EC's New Proposed EC Animal Transport
Regulation has raised many concerns, chiefly due to the fact that
it does not appear to be based on current realities. In addition,
it fails to take into account practical considerations that would
hamper compliance with some of its provisions.
ILPH field observations, together with other research and statistical
studies, have shown that horses transported too far without proper
rest are clearly exhausted on arrival. Current truck design does
not allow proper access for feeding and watering nor access to assist
and although the trucks are equipped with
fans, when the driver stops to rest, he switches the engine off
and therefore the fans - in summertime, the horses slowly cook in
temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, while he enjoys an extended lunch
break. Conversely, in winter, when temperatures are often as low
as -20 degrees, and all water freezes instantly, horses are not
given a drink.
Jo also discussed the EC's proposal for new Animal Transportation
Regulation (still pending release at the time of Jo's talk). She
expressed hope that the EC would incorporate the ILPH's latest recommendations,
" Reduced journey times, with the provision for horses to be
rested, fed and watered off the vehicles (including a compulsory
24 hr rest period off the vehicle when animals reach the EU border).
" Individual partitions, to prevent trampling of fallen horses
and fighting between horses (at the same time, certain groups such
as dams and their foals should still be allowed to travel together).
" Improved vehicle construction allowing for adequate feeding,
watering, and temperature control.
" The compulsory use of licensed and standardised staging points
where horses are unloaded so that health checks can be undertaken.
Further to these recommendations, the ILPH would like to see all
personnel involved in transporting these horses properly trained
to minimise distress. Detailed journey plans of the entire route,
and a thorough veterinary inspection at the start of a new journey
will also make a difference.
Going forward, the ILPH plans to conduct an extensive observational
study so that it can present clear evidence in support of its recommendations
to improve slaughter horse welfare. Expert veterinary input would
be vital in helping to shape this study.
Summing Up - John Smales
The fifth session has provided a forum for a dispassionate exchange
of views between those organisations concerned with slaughter horse
welfare, and the representatives of key regulatory bodies we look
to for much-needed improvements. We were very fortunate to have
scientific input from the Veterinary profession who have been able
to quantify the problems objectively, and help point the way towards
workable solutions. All concerned came away with a greater understanding
of the differing viewpoints in this sometimes highly charged area
of debate, and a clearer idea of the way forward.
It has become increasingly clear from previous presentations throughout
the weekend, whether given by ministry representatives or vets,
that public opinion will no longer tolerate suffering on this scale.
Animal welfare organisations such as the ILPH, the MSPCA, and Compassion
in World Farming (all represented at this conference), while lobbying
relevant bodies for better regulations and better enforcement, must
strive to provide scientific data to support their demands.
This is where the input from Dr. Ted Friend, Dr. Carolyn Stull and
other vets studying the problems particular to slaughter horses
in transit will be pivotal to our efforts. On their part, regulatory
bodies work hard to reconcile the conflicting interests of horse
industry stakeholders (who are often very well represented politically),
with growing public indignation and the demands made by animal welfare
groups representing their concerns.
It is a seeming paradox that welfare groups such as the ILPH would
like see more horse abattoirs in source countries, but we object
to the long distance transport of the equines, not the eating of
Ultimately, it is hoped that if tighter regulations are introduced
and properly enforced, it will begin to make more economic sense
not to transport horses long distances, but to slaughter them in
their home country. The ILPH mantra will thus become a reality -
ON THE HOOK, NOT ON THE HOOF.