In European Union legislation animals of the Equidae family are considered ‘food-producing animals’ unless they are declared1 as not intended for slaughter for human consumption. Once declared as being not intended for slaughter, the status of the animal can never be changed again and the animal is excluded from entering the food chain forever.
In view of on-going discussions to consider all Equidae as companion animals – in other words to end the existing provision allowing horses to be considered as food producing animals – the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe is gravely concerned that such a development will carry great risk for the welfare of Equidae in Europe.
The removal of the option of slaughter for human consumption will create substantial euthanasia and disposal costs for owners at the end of the animal’s life and is likely to lead to animals being abandoned, neglected or being placed on international, long-distance transports to slaughter houses outside the EU. The termination of horse slaughter in the USA has resulted in each of these severe, albeit unintended, welfare consequences and FVE considers it essential that Europe learns from such experience.