Horses are likely to be among the animals, which benefit from a European Parliament vote on animal medicines.

The vote in favour of a report by Irish MEP, Avril Doyle, suggests, among other things, that horses be issued with passports detailing the medicines they have been given and the dates on which they were administered.

Under EU law, horses are classified as food animals, and therefore can only be given medicines if there isdata about them on consumer safety, in case the meat is eaten.

This means that pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to develop and maintain medicines specifically for them because of the costs involved.

The other problem for horses isthat they live longer than most farm animals and are used as athletes, so they need a specific range of medicines for diseases related to old age and injuries.

The issue of a passport would mean pharmaceutical companies could develop such medicineswithout having to provide details on consumer safety.

The director of the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), Roger Cook says the move is a big step in the right direction, but warns that legislation could be some time off.

“What the report has done is very positive. It supports the ideas that have come from a number of different places.