The passport system looks set to be simplified after surveys found that current regulations are confusing vets and enforcement authorities as well as owners.

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) commissioned a survey of 600 members in the wake of the horsemeat scandal earlier this year, which found that 84% found the regulations problematic to understand and 90% believed the system does not prevent unsuitable carcasses from entering the food chain.

BEVA is now pushing for legislative changes at national and European levels to make the system more workable, in conjunction with the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare, which also conducted surveys among 3,000 horse owners, 100 local authority enforcement agents, 600 veterinary surgeons, 54 passport issuing organisations and two abbatoirs.

“Understanding and compliance are poor across the entire equine sector,” said outgoing BEVA President, Keith Chandler.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers added: “The surveys are incontrovertible evidence that most parts of the system have failed to some degree. [They also] show what we need: a simple system for identifying equines that is easy to understand, comply with and enforce, and inspires public confidence.”

Targets include microchipping, a central database and cross-border communication.

H&H vet Karen Coumbe said she would “welcome a standardised system that worked more effectively”.

She added: “The vast number of passports and issuing organisations makes the system confusing, as each one is different. Another huge concern is the lack of a national database.”