Business as usual for now despite new EU animal health law *H&H Plus*

  • Some of the requirements, about which concerns had been raised, have been delayed, while others have been dropped altogether. H&H finds out what this means for the industry

    FEARS new EU legislation would bring with it further disruption and bureaucratic headaches at a crucial time for those moving horses across borders have been tempered.

    Britain’s exit from the EU resulted in a host of new veterinary, customs and horsebox-related requirements and there were serious concerns the new EU Animal Health law that came into force on 21 April would bring even more red tape, including more onerous rules on isolation and residency requirements.

    The timing and implications of these were a worry, given this is the middle of the thoroughbred breeding season as well as a busier time for the sport horse competition season, following months of Covid and EHV-forced cancellations.

    Lobbying by the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC), as well as work by the British Horse Council (BHC) alongside Defra, means some requirements have been dropped altogether, while others have been delayed.

    Jan Rogers, of the BHC, told H&H that in essence, it is “business as usual” and nothing has changed for people moving horses between Britain and the EU yet, so all the post-Brexit paperwork and requirements still apply.

    “The new health certificates that could have come into force [on 21 April] have been postponed until 21 August,” she said. “The reason is there are some inconsistencies between the content of the regulation and the content of the certificates.”

    Ms Rogers added this is particularly important for thoroughbred breeders, as moving horses for breeding fell into something of a loophole in the legislation that may have made moving these horses quite difficult. She explained that the delay means this season can be concluded without further obstacles and gives time for the new requirements to be looked at well ahead of the 2022 season.

    She said there are hopes under this new umbrella legislation for recognition of “high health status” horses and digitalisation of what is currently a paper-heavy system that would make it easier to move racing, competition and breeding horses across borders.

    “We have to make sure that as these are negotiated, we as the equine sector make sure our needs are fully understood,” she said.

    IHSC task force chairman Göran Akerström said the industry welcomes the concessions.

    “We really appreciate that our requests have not just been listened to, but acted upon. This will make a huge difference to the industry as a whole,” he said.

    “The delay in implementation of the new export health certificates will give everyone time to put everything in place and help to minimise the delays for horses travelling between EU member states and the UK. There was already a derogation from the 30-day isolation period in place for competition horses, but this has now been extended to all registered horses and will be warmly welcomed, particularly by the thoroughbred breeding industry.”

    Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA) chief executive Claire Sheppard told H&H that the recognition of all thoroughbreds as registered horses in the new EU law is “critical in safeguarding the future growth of thoroughbred breeding in the UK, and the rural employment and local economies that are dependent on the thoroughbred industry”.

    “We are awaiting further advice on aspects of the animal health law, and will be issuing further guidance on the changes and how they may impact the breeding season in the future in due course,” she added.

    Weatherbys’ communications director Nick Craven told H&H the 1 January Brexit changes were the “big game-changer”, and the new EU animal health law will be “broadly similar to the current regime”.

    Work on draft legislation that would recognise digital passports is continuing, and Weatherbys is pushing forwards in this area.

    “All thoroughbreds born in Britain and Ireland this year will be issued with a Weatherbys e-passport – alongside a traditional passport as EU law still currently requires a printed document,” said Mr Craven, adding that the thoroughbred industry is in contact with the UK Government and has offered to work alongside them and use this technical solution to help “ease this bureaucratic burden”

    “The new e-passport can become a single secure platform for all regulatory and legislative identification, movement, health and welfare requirements for racing and breeding moves within Great Britain.”

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