European vets will meet this month in a bid to stem what one welfare chief calls “the biggest abuse of horses in Europe today”.

The vets will discuss how to improve the plight of thousands of horses who travel long distances to slaughter on the Continent each day.

British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) president Dr Madeleine Campbell will represent British horse vets at the meeting in Brussels on 29 November.

The vets will review how well EU regulations governing the transport of horses for slaughter are being enforced and look at trade flows, risks to animal health, horse identification and the effects of closing slaughterhouses.

Dr Campbell said: “It is all very well to campaign for new rules, but at present even the existing regulations are not enforced adequately. No one is better placed to help with this than vets.”

Roly Owers of World Horse Welfare, which campaigns for European transportation regulations to be policed and made more stringent, said current transport standards are atrocious and the lack of regulation contributes to the spread of diseases like swamp fever.

The charity has evidence that horses regularly suffer dehydration, injuries, severe fatigue, stress and disease while travelling to slaughter.

He said the charity was hopeful that the leading vets attending will take action.

“We need to raise the profile of the issue with the chief veterinary officers and make them realise there is a problem,” said Mr Owers.

“Then we need enforcement. World Horse Welfare believes the current regulations are not fit for purpose, but if they were enforced, the lot of horses would be a great deal better.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (4 November, ’10)