H&H can exclusively reveal that Defra plans to cut the UK’s 80 passport issuing organisations (PIOs) to one in a bid to slash Defra’s costs.

Funding to the National Equine Database (NED) would also be cut.

A meeting will be held on Monday (24 January) to explain the changes to PIOs.

Breed societies that currently issue passports say the plan has been sprung on them without consultation.

Irish Draught Horse Society trustee Janet George told H&H: “We know very little of how this will work or what the transition arrangements and costs will be.

“But we have been given less than two weeks’ notice of the meeting in London and will be required to provide written responses by the end of January. It is an obscenely short period.”

In a letter to PIOs, dated 12 January, Defra head of equine ID Donna Yates wrote: “As there is no legal requirement for the UK to maintain a central horse database, we must consider whether the government should continue to fund such a service in the current economic climate.”

She said the government intends to create a “single equine identification organisation” to issue and amend passports and manage a central horse database, at no expense to the taxpayer.

John Shenfield, of the British Hanoverian Horse Society, said: “Breed organisations will be virtually penniless if they take passports away.

“Defra says breed societies will continue to run stud books and pedigree databases, but how are they going to fund that? Societies will not do this for nothing.”

The news also came as a shock to NED Ltd, the British Equestrian Federation body that runs the current national horse database. They learnt about the changes last week.

Defra will start to invite tenders at the end of the month and the new body will operate from October if approved.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 January, 2011)