What digital passports could mean for future horse travel *H&H Plus*

  • It is hoped the proposed digital passports would “ensure efficient cross-border movement of sport, racing and breeding horses” after the end of the Brexit process. H&H speaks to experts in government, governance and equine welfare about the issue...

    PROPOSALS for digital horse passports have brought fresh hope of easing movement of horses between the UK and EU nations after Brexit.

    The idea comes from the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC) taskforce for Brexit and EU animal health law, which comprises representatives of sport horse, breeding and racing bodies.

    It is hoped it would “ensure efficient cross-border movement of sport, racing and breeding horses” after the end of the Brexit transition period in December.

    It would allow free movement of horses between Britain and Europe, and would also meet – and go beyond – requirements of new EU animal health law, which comes into force in January.

    Digital passports would give authorities “fail-safe” information on horses’ identity, real-time monitoring of movement and ownership, plus up-to-date vaccination and medical records.

    The long-term aim is to create a network of databases which registers horses’ identity, enables them to be easily located and identified, and ensures secure movement anywhere in Europe.

    Concerns have been raised over how the new EU animal health legislation could affect movement of horses, and FEI veterinary director and IHSC task force chairman Göran Akerström said it is “imperative” systems and processes are put in place to ensure efficient and safe cross-border movement of horses.

    “This digital passport would play a key role in that,” he added. “Any obstacles to the cross-border movement of horses and associated personnel would result in huge economic losses to Britain, Ireland and France, as well as other EU member states.”

    British Equestrian CEO Iain Graham told H&H it is a “great innovation” in principle and the organisation is working with the FEI, IHSC and British Horse Council to learn more.

    A Defra spokesman said Britain’s breeders and equine industry are “the envy of the world”, and Defra knows how vital movement of horses is to the sector, adding: “That is why we are working closely with them to ensure they are ready for the end of the transition period and that movement of horses is unaffected.”

    A British Horseracing Authority spokesman told H&H its view, shared by European and breeding bodies, is that the racing-related exemptions to the animal health law that have already been agreed “do not go far enough”.

    “They do not reflect the high health and welfare standards in the thoroughbred sector or meet the unique requirements of our industry,” he said, adding that a task force of representatives from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, FEI, European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and Weatherbys has submitted an overview of challenges and proposals to EU negotiators on Brexit and others at the European Commission.

    “The digital passport solution could facilitate the movement of horses between Britain, France and Ireland – which is essential for our closely linked racing and breeding industries – while remaining in line with the new animal health law.”

    Easing concerns

    World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers said digital passports have the potential 
to ease legitimate movement of horses and reduce concerns over the end of the Brexit transition.

    “We believe this would also prove beneficial for all horses 
if such a system were extended to them, as they too could benefit from greater ease of movement if travelling compliantly,” he told H&H, adding it would 
also help authorities quickly identify horses moved “below 
the radar”, such as those transported non-compliantly 
for sale and slaughter.

    “This would help prevent disease spread while allowing for any future animal transport legislation, including a potential ban on horses being exported from the UK for slaughter, to be effectively enforced.”

    He said a system would need to hold up-to-date information and be integrated with border systems across the UK and EU, but it is the “logical next step from demonstrably fallible paper passports” after Britain’s microchipping deadline.

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