Is the end in sight for the UK’s 75 passport issuing organisations (PIOs)?
In the wake of the horse meat scandal, plans to tackle the issue of horse passport fraud are under way. A single passport issuing organisation and a new central equine database may be in the pipeline.
The European Commission wants member states to make a national database mandatory. It also wants to transfer the responsibility for issuing passports to one “competent authority” in each country.
The aim is for the database and single PIO to be brought in by the end of the year.
But PIOs contacted by H&H say this would be a “nightmare” to implement.
All 75 PIOs recently received a letter from Defra, outlining the Commission’s plans. Defra says that “timescales are unclear”, but it is in favour of the proposals “in principle”.
“We agree there should be a centralised passport issuing office,” a Defra spokesman told H&H. “This is something we explored in 2010, but were restricted by EU legislation.”
Last year vets and welfare organisations were “concerned” when the National Equine Database (NED) folded (news, 24 August 2012) just four years after it was launched, due to lack of government funding.
NED held basic identification details and voluntary pedigree of over a million horses, but it had flaws as horses’ deaths were often unrecorded.
At a recent meeting between the Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare — an umbrella group for the UK horse industry — and Defra, it was agreed an “overhaul of the system was desperately needed”.
Jeannette Allen, leader of the sector council, said it supports the new EU proposal.
“It’s an excellent step, but if new regulations are to be written in such a short time, we need to ensure they are as tight as they can be,” she said.
She added that passports will only need to include regulatory information — microchip numbers, silhouttes and owner details.
But John Shenfield from the British Hanoverian Horse Society thinks it will be a “slow process” and has concerns about the cost, especially with the earlier loss of NED.
“Defra failed to implement the policy [to issue all passports] before and would possibly fail again,” he said.
Janet George of the Irish Draught Horse Society added she thought a single PIO “could not and would not work”.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (9 May 2013)