Asks DEFRA To Get A Grip On Horse Export Debacle
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is asking DEFRA
to clarify a number of issues which are throwing angry horse owners
In Britain horses cannot be exported live unless they meet a minimum
value - a rule that allows exports of valuable competition horses,
racehorses and breeding stock but effectively bans their export
for food. However Government now appears likely to lift this ban,
seemingly to conform with the rest of Europe where horses are considered
livestock and enter the human food chain.
Although the EU seems willing to continue Britain's exemption on
minimum value grounds, DEFRA no longer wants to make horses a special
case, allowing them to be exported as livestock, a move that is
causing widespread anger amongst the horse industry.
James Bush, CLA Assistant Regional Director says: "The derogation
from the live export regulations has worked for years and seems
an eminently sensible solution to a contentious issue. It allows
our equine industry to earn valuable foreign currency for this country
whilst avoiding upsetting the general public. For once the EU appears
happy to let this continue, but there appears to be no desire from
our own Government to listen to public opinion and leave things
as they are."
"DEFRA are insisting that horses must now be considered livestock,
and that they cannot make a special case to do otherwise. Yet the
CLA has been lobbying for years for this very classification, which
would allow breeders and trainers welcome agricultural benefits.
The Equine industry is becoming increasingly important in rural
areas as farmers are put under increasing pressure to diversify,
and considering horses as livestock would provide a much-welcomed
The uncertainty over live exports follows the recent chaos over
horse passports. All horses, ponies and donkeys in England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland must have a passport by 30th June 2004.
The passports are issued by a variety of agencies, and unlike human
and cattle passports will incur VAT, seen by the equine fraternity
as yet another direct tax on rural businesses. Each EU Country is
operating the scheme differently, and England now requires the further
expense of a Vet to complete the application.
Mr Bush continues: "It is bad enough having different systems,
but the system in England has been badly launched and the rules
changed part way through. Passports were intended to ensure that
horses intended for the food chain would be traceable; a move that
was seen as unnecessary in this Country. Perhaps the proposed lifting
of the export regulations explains why the government was so keen
to saddle us all with more red tape.
"Ironically it might prove to be passports that keep horses
out of the food chain. If you say that your horse is not intended
to enter the food chain, then it never can."
The CLA says that anyone with an interest in horses should ask their
local MP to put pressure on DEFRA to clarify the situation once
and for all. If the Government is to continue to stop live horses
from being transported overseas for slaughter than it has to act