In a new twist to the ongoing equine database saga, EU officials look set to force Defra to fund a mandatory database for the UK next year.

Next month a proposal will be voted on in Brussels.

If this is approved, from 1 January 2015 Defra must provide an equine database. If not, the Government has until 2018 to bring one in.

The National Equine Database (NED) closed in September 2012 after the Government announced it would no longer fund it (news, 23 August 2012).

Roly Owers of the Equine Sector Council believes it’s “very likely” that the proposal will be voted in.

“Currently, 25 out of 28 member states already have mandatory databases and the 26th one [Ireland] is in process,” he said.

“We will be sorely disappointed if there is not a central equine database funded by the Government in the UK next year.”

NED was launched in 2008 to centralise horse data in the UK. There were some issues with duplicated/missing horses and costs to users.

But when it was shut, all NED services — including horse search, lost and stolen register, horse associations, pedigree, progeny and performance reports and passport check — were no longer available.

This decision was slammed by vets and industry figures (news, 23 August 2012).

A new central equine database and a tightening of equine traceability were called for in the wake of last year’s horse meat scandal.

“We have made it very clear that, without a database, the passporting system is ineffectual — and with the horse meat scandal and the equine ID issues involved with that, we believe we have a very strong case,” said Mr Owers.

The news of a new database is backed by the British Equestrian Federation.

“[We need] one that helps to support compliance with passport regulation initially and develops into a system that can be valuable for our sports and recreational activities and provides for every individual who rides a horse,” said the BEF’s Andrew Finding.

A spokesman for Defra told H&H the proposals to strengthen EU horse passport regulations and introduce mandatory national equine databases are “expected to be rolled out during the course of 2015”.

“These new measures will ensure improved security and better traceability of horses throughout Europe,” he added.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (17 April 2014)