Welfare Authorities Urge Improvements for Equine Traceability

Together with The British Horse Society and Horsescotland, World Horse Welfare recently exhibited at the Scottish Parliament to highlight the importance of equine identification to the health and welfare of Scottish horses. The opportunity was taken to urge MSPs to support an improved digitalised and enforceable equine ID system to ensure all horses are identifiable and traceable. 

The existing equine identification system in England was developed in line with EU regulations. It is based on the requirement for paper documents (equine passports) and underpinned by a Central Equine Database of all equines recorded as resident in England. It was designed to support the EU-led priority of protecting public health, through maintaining the integrity of the human food chain.

Developments and proposals for such developments have already been discussed at a preliminary level back in 2022. Changes are being urged to develop the system to support the safeguarding of both equine health and welfare. Since the current format was not built with these functions in mind, it does not support them as well as it could. The current system does little to prevent cases of forged and false documents, as well as a paper based system meaning fewer updates and changes are made within suitable timeframes. Updated Horse Passport identification laws brought in in October 2018 relating to responsibility for the retention of passports still provides confusion to many horse owners.

The UK’s departure from the EU has provided the opportunity to review the equine identification system and ensure that it supports all 3 of the government’s priorities effectively.The proposed improvements to move from the current paper-based system, to a digital service will mean that real-time updates can be made to individual records, enabling horses, ponies and donkeys to be traced quickly and effectively – crucial in the event of a disease outbreak, when they stray or in instances of theft and ownership disputes.

With a consultation on the digitalisation of cattle identification and traceability currently being undertaken in Scotland, the Scottish equine sector is calling on the Scottish Government to follow suit for horses, ponies and donkeys.

You can find out more about the existing Passport and Equine ID regulations here

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