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Many of us are avid supporters of the equine charity World Horse Welfare. It does a tremendous job not only in rescuing and rehoming neglected equines but also in lobbying on a higher level, such as in its ongoing campaign to ban the long-distance transportation of horses for slaughter in Europe, and the more recent one calling for the provision of CCTV in all UK equine slaughterhouses.

However there is one recommendation put forward by World Horse Welfare, with regards to the recent report on the effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act, that I envisage many will disagree with, namely “examining the possibility of establishing a single Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO)”. World Horse Welfare also recommends that “the equine identification system needs to be made much simpler with higher standards”.

The call to establish a single PIO is not a new one and at face value it might seem logical — it works for humans. However, I am not sure it has been fully analysed.

Issuing passports is the main income for most if not all UK breed societies and studbooks, without which most would be unable to function as they presently do. Without income from passports I imagine studbooks would be reduced to simply organising events. How would stallion and mare grading work and the functioning of a studbook? Would all studbook work pass to the single PIO? It would have to be a very large establishment to house all the current studbooks’ and breed societies’ paperwork, as many of the older studbooks have literally tons of pre-computer, database paperwork, which still has to be referenced.

Or, as passports are simply identity documents with no requisite for breeding, would passports and studbooks simply become divorced? Then what would that mean for studbooks and breeders? Would those who wanted verified breeding have to go through the studbook, presumably at more cost to the breeder? Would they bother with two lots of paperwork? And will this apply to the UK only? What do we imagine the KWPN would think?

It’s not so simple…

As regards the second recommendation to simplify the system; it is only as complex as Defra and the EU make it — PIOs just comply with the rules. Any passport that is correctly issued and complicit with the regulations brought in this year, is of a high standard. Due to the new binding, it should be evident if anyone has tampered with a new passport.

Yes, there are a lot of PIOs and this could be reduced. But, taking away income from studbooks, especially as they invest time and money in issuing passports, is not progress for breeding. Perhaps it is the policing of passports that should be improved.

The issue has only come about due to the fact that the initial implementation of passports was not fully considered, with too many bodies given PIO status. I really hope, before this proposal moves forward, that someone places some regard to British studbooks, their future and that of breeding in the UK.

Ref Horse & Hound; 8 December 2016