Temperature queries on Government’s new horse transport proposals *H&H Plus*

  • The Government is proposing no horses be transported if the forecast external temperature is outside 5ºC to 30ºC, unless the vehicle has a thermo-regulation system. H&H speaks to veterinary, travel and sporting experts to find out their views...

    STRICTER requirements around travelling horses when the mercury hits certain temperatures have been mooted by the Government.

    Defra’s consultation on improvements to animal welfare in transport in England and Wales – which also features proposals to ban live exports for slaughter  – proposes stricter rules for transporting any horses on any length of journey outside certain temperatures.

    The proposals cover anyone transporting animals in connection with an economic activity, but the definition of this is quite broad. The consultation states it is not limited to transport where an “immediate exchange of money, goods or services takes place”, but also includes transport “which directly or indirectly involves or aims at a financial gain”.

    “The Government recognises the welfare concerns that arise due to thermal conditions and ventilation and wants to ensure that our policy reforms reflect the latest evidence and expert understanding where available,” states the consultation, which runs until 28 January and is open to all.

    “We agree with [the farms and animal welfare committee] that more research and evidence is required to determine acceptable temperature ranges for different species and classes of animals before future reforms incorporate specific requirements for all species.

    “In light of this, we are proposing that no livestock or horse journeys will be allowed to take place if the forecast external temperature for the journey is outside a temperature range of 5ºC to 30ºC, unless the vehicle is able to regulate the internal temperature within a 5ºC to 30ºC temperature range for the duration of the journey by means of a thermo-regulation system. This will apply to both short and long journeys.”

    Careful review

    British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) chairman David Mountford told H&H it “should be noted” that current rules already include the requirement to maintain a range of temperatures between 5ºC and 30ºC within the means of transport.

    “These have been in force since 2005. The new draft proposals do, nonetheless, warrant careful review and, as part of the British Horse Council, BEVA will be submitting a response to the consultation that promotes good equine welfare standards while recognising equine-specific practicalities,” he added.

    Kevin Needham, managing director of BBA Shipping & Transport, which operates across Britain, the rest of Europe and worldwide, said horses in the UK live in temperatures below 5ºC, so questioned why their welfare would be compromised if they are standing on a horsebox instead if they are managed appropriately.

    He told H&H he hoped a common sense, horsemanship-based approach would be considered appropriate. For example, temperature monitoring and, in colder weather, a person with an appropriate rug for a particular horse and conditions (as already happens) would be considered a compliant “thermo-regulation” system.

    “What is interesting is they are asking for respondents to provide scientific evidence on why you should be able to move a horse when the temperature is below 5ºC,” he said, adding he would flip the question and ask Defra to provide the evidence that welfare is compromised by travelling below that temperature.

    “What we certainly don’t want to have to do is to have to be travelling horses without rugs and with a heater on instead.”

    He explained he would have concerns this could lead to other welfare issues.

    World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H the consultation concerns animals transported for economic reasons, and so covers a lot of the horses transported today.

    “We agree that the temperature on a vehicle should be within a certain range to protect welfare and minimum/maximum temperature ranges already exist within the current legislation, but we are not yet convinced that a thermo-regulation system need be in place to provide this, especially in smaller vehicles when shelter from the elements and body heat can be sufficient,” said Mr Owers.

    “Consideration also needs to be given to the recommendations if, during a journey, temperatures exceed the limits: for instance, should animals continue their journey if there are no suitable facilities for them to be offloaded and rested until the journey can recommence? We look forward to responding to this consultation and discussing our views with Defra further.”

    A British Horseracing Authority spokesman told H&H it supports the Government’s ambition to raise welfare standards and looks forward to contributing evidence.

    “It is important that those involved in the consultation process are aware of the high standards that currently exist in animal transport in British racing and breeding,” he said. “Any changes to existing standards that result from the process should be soundly based and reflect the high standards and controls already in place.”

    H&H 17 December 2020

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