Regulations that will eventually require all horses in the UK to be microchipped come in across Europe on 1 July.

But as H&H went to press on Monday, Defra said the English regulations would not be laid before Westminster until early August. From July, foals and adult horses applying for a first passport in the UK must be microchipped. This will create a life long trace of all horses.
Scotland ratified the law on 4 June. Wales and Northern Ireland still have to do so.

“No passport issuing organisations [PIOs] will issue passports without a microchip after 1 July and the rules will apply elsewhere in Europe, so we would ask all owners to be ready by July,” said a Defra spokesman.

British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) president Chris House said he was concerned at the delay.

“Defra has not yet said how it will police the scheme, what constitutes an offence or the penalties,” he said.

Other concerns have been raised by the horse industry.

British Horse Industry Confederation chairman Timothy Morris said: “We need a more pragmatic approach to the drug-withdrawal rules set out in the EU directive.

“Just one sachet [of bute] in a horse’s life means it cannot go for slaughter, even if that death is 20 years later,” he said.

BEVA has asked the EU to extend the range of drugs that can be used on horses that may go for meat.

And Stephen Potter, who runs slaughter house, Lawrence J Potter Ltd of Taunton said by encouraging owners to sign horses out of the food chain, the regulations will increase unwanted animals.

“The change in the law will lead to many more cases like the James Gray one,” he told H&H.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (25 June, ’09)