Welfare and health of horses transported for slaughter within the European Union Part 1: Methodology and descriptive data.
REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Anecdotal evidence collected by a variety of organisations has highlighted poor welfare in horses transported long distances to slaughter within the European Union. OBJECTIVE: To investigate welfare of horses being transported long distances within the EU to slaughter. METHODS: Data on transported horses were recorded at 2 assembly centres in Romania and at 4 abattoirs in Italy over an 8 month period in 2008. RESULTS: A total of 1519 horses in 64 separate shipments were observed in Romania prior to transport of which 212 horses were deemed unfit for transport and only 3 shipments (5%) complied with Council Regulation (EC) no. 1/2005 with respect to both horse and vehicle compliance. The destination most commonly stated for the horses from these assembly centres was Italy. A total of 1271 horses in 63 separate shipments were observed after transport in Italy, of which 86 horses in 4 shipments had also been observed prior to transport in Romania. The majority of the horses observed at these abattoirs originated from Poland (51%) and Romania (44%). On arrival in Italy at the time of unloading, 471 of 1271 horses (37%) were deemed unfit for transport in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) no. 1/2005 and none of the shipments were compliant with respect to both vehicle and horse requirements. An average of 6 horses per shipment (28% of each shipment) had at least one acute injury on arrival in Italy. A significantly higher prevalence of severe injuries and lameness was found in animals on arrival In Italy compared with animals leaving Romania. Horses examined on arrival in Italy were twice as likely to have 1-3 acute contusions or excoriations as horses examined in Romania. There was also a 2-fold increase in the number of animals deemed unfit for transport. CONCLUSION: This study has identified evidence of poor welfare in horses being transported long distances to slaughter, including severe lameness and injuries, and a high level of noncompliance with Council Regulation (EC) no. 1/2005 on the Protection of Animals during Transport.