More scientific evidence and greater education are needed in the fight to improve conditions for horses transported long distances for slaughter, say industry experts.

Scientists and professionals from around the world gathered on 15 June to discuss the issues. Their major concern was lack of evidence on how transport affects slaughter horses.

But some recommendations were agreed to address welfare concerns currently facing the 80,000 horses that are transported each year across Europe for slaughter.

Exhaustion, journey times, dehydration and water provision were all discussed. The findings will be sent to the European Commission and EU member states to coincide with the release of a report on transport legislation in September.

“The meeting was a success and we were able to finalise a recommendation regarding access to water before, during and after journeys. The ultimate aim is to reinforce the call for improvements to welfare while identifying gaps in research where work is needed,” said World Horse Welfare’s Jo White.

Former British Equine Veterinary Association president, Prof Josh Slater said there were two ways forward.

“We can try changing EU regulations, but the problem is enforcement,” he said. “Or we can let the industry lead the way by proving that improved welfare produces better meat, which can be sold at a premium.”

There is currently little data as transport research to date has focused on competition animals.

Dr Gianluigi Giovagnoli of the Italian Equestrian Federation said: “Sport and slaughter horses are different. We need evidence on slaughter horses.”

Other points include the need to educate hauliers and consumers and highlighting the dangers of disease.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 June, 2011)