Signed petitions demanding an end to the trade in live horses for meat will be handed to the Polish Embassy in London by the anti-hunting animal charity, Viva! on Wednesday 26 February at 12.30am.

The petitions will be delivered in a horse transporter decorated with giant photographs of horses suffering on their journey to abattoirs.

Italy is the main destination for around 90% of the animals and the Polish horses destined for slaughter are loaded up and sent on journeys covering 2,500 kilometres and lasting up to 90 hours.

Many will receive no rest, water or feed en route and on most journeys at least one horse will die.

When Viva! and a number of other welfare organisations first started campaigning against the live export of horses for meat to the EU, nearly 100,000 animals were being exported every year.

Some two years later, the number has fallen to 30,000 and Poland’s chief veterinary officer, Mr Piotr Kolodziej, has attributed theslump to high profile campaigns across Europe.

Viva! campaigner, Kat Macmillan says, “Although we’re pleased that the number of horses suffering has fallen, the trade must end once and for all.

“People all over the world are revolted by this cruel business and the thousands of petitions we have gathered show just how much people care.”

In November 2002, pressure to end the trade was given a massive boost with a high-profile march, rally and demonstration in the centre of Warsaw, Poland.

Thousands of protesters marched to the Ministry of Agriculture with a sea of placards. Viva! Poland’s manager, Joanna Draus met with the Polish Deputy Minister for Agriculture and forcefully demanded that the government comply with their own laws, respond to public opinion and stop the appalling trade.

Ms Macmillan says, “British people have not only written thousands of letters and signed thousands of petitions to the Polish government but they have also reached into their pockets.

“Wednesday’s demonstration will keep the pressure on Poland and that pressure will remain until the trade ends forever.”