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‘Health and welfare inextricably linked’

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01 January 2010, at 12:00am

SARAH BEARDALL reports on BEVA’s annual horse industry meeting

THE British Equine Veterinary Association recently hosted its annual horse industry meeting, attended by key representatives from the equine industry including welfare charities, government, professional associations, grant awarding bodies and the media.

The first item to be discussed was the new Responsibility and Cost Sharing initiative. DEFRA is planning to launch a new independent body to deal with animal health, whilst leaving animal welfare under ministerial control.

In BEVA’s opinion, health and welfare are inextricably linked and cannot be separated. However, BEVA supports the aims of reducing the incidence and impact of animal diseases, and acknowledges the need to avoid undue expense on the taxpayer.

Significant concerns were raised at the meeting by Professor Bill Reilly, president of the BVA, and by Keith Meldrum, former CVO and current consultant to World Horse Welfare, who considered the separation of health and welfare to be unworkable.

DEFRA’s proposals still contain little detail at this point, but Chris House, BEVA president, pointed out that the levy in question may be many times higher than the £10.50 currently suggested. Additionally, it may increase each year, causing a huge burden for sanctuaries and rescue centres.

Pat Campbell, from the BHS, added that this would also significantly impact hill farm breeders. The public were advised to visit www.rethinkthehorsetax.org. BEVA will continue to strive politically for an optimal outcome not only for horse owners, but also for the welfare of the horse itself.

On 1st July, the new regulations concerning Horse Passports were introduced. Furthermore, Di Harvey of Weatherbys commented that DEFRA is planning to standardise the passport itself so that its format mirrors the Commission Annex as closely as possible, as there are several different types in use at the present time. Weatherbys has revised its passport format in light of this.

Keith Meldrum reiterated that it is imperative that people fully understand the implications when signing Section IX of the passport, and horse owners must understand that once a horse is signed out of the food chain, it can never go back in. 

The decision is irreversible, and may potentially affect the sale of that horse and, ultimately, will definitely affect the disposal options available for it. Owners were also reminded that they have only 30 days to notify the Passport Issuing Organisation of a change in ownership.

There is great concern over the illegal importation of semen into this country. Its use could potentially cause an outbreak of CEM or EVA, which could affect the entire horse industry. Madeleine Campbell, president-elect of BEVA, stressed the seriousness of the situation, and stated that Animal Health would put information on its website for anyone to report cases of illegal importation of semen, and also a procedure for vets to follow, should the semen they are using not be accompanied by the correct documentation.

Paraprofessionals

The horse industry is keen to regulate equine “paraprofessionals”, such as equine dental technicians and barefoot trimmers. Progress continues to be made in establishing guidelines for training, qualification and regulations, so that the horse-owning public can be reassured that these paraprofessionals have the requisite knowledge and skills.

A similar course of action is being undertaken for physiotherapists, and this would include equine physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors.

Madeleine Campbell echoed the group’s concerns that, although there is legislation to help protect the welfare of horses undergoing long distance transportation, a campaign by World Horse Welfare had found a significant lack of enforcement of this legislation. She asked that people write to their MEPs to ask them to sign a declaration so this can be rectified. In a discussion of the Code of

Practice for Welfare of Equines, inspection and licensing of livery yards was seen as very important, and should be encouraged, especially with DIY livery yards, some of which have less than optimal standards of animal welfare. A group of volunteers from key welfare, equine and veterinary associations, the Livery Yard Inspection Working Party, is working hard to enable secondary legislation to assist in this matter.

Paul Jepson, who sits on the cross- industry working group for Exotic Disease Surveillance and Contingency Planning for African Horse Sickness, updated the meeting with its latest news.

This group is completing the final drafts of the Regulation and Control Strategy documents which go to public consultation imminently, and these suggest that compensation may be paid if a horse is compulsorily slaughtered but not infected, up to a limit of perhaps £2,500 (yet to be finalised). Horses that are infected will not be compensated for. Disposal costs will be paid for slaughtered horses.