Long-distance transportation of horses to slaughter would not be profitable on a number of routes if European Union (EU) rules were properly enforced, says a new report commissioned by the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH). But some member states seem unable to enact it.

A European Commission (EC) regulation introduced on 5 January (news, 30 November 2006) demanded that horses travelling for more than 8hr have individually partitioned stalls, are fed and watered every 8hr and are unloaded for 24hr with food and water if the journey itself exceeds 24hr.

The ILPH claims that, at present, these rules are regularly flouted in many parts of Europe, but that if they were better enforced the increased costs involved would make it more cost effective to transport the horses, after slaughter, in a refrigerated vehicle.

Jo White, ILPH head of campaigns and European affairs, believes European enforcement agencies are “in a state of confusion”.

She said: “Member states and the EC need to ensure the message [about what to enforce] gets from government level to the enforcement agencies. This would effectively put a stop to these unnecessary and inhumane journeys to slaughter.”

The research, collated by Emma Leckie, who has worked with the ILPH for more than seven years, concentrated on horses travelling from Spain to slaughterhouses in Italy, a route taken by more than 10,500 equines in 2006.

A spokesman for the Spanish government said responsibility for implementing official controls rested with the 17 regional authorities, which employ local inspectors and prepare their own “control plans”. The spokesman said the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture could not comment until it had received this year’s regional control reports.

Miss White said she also wanted the EC to address meat labelling legislation and introduce finite journey times.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (9 August, ’07)