Search icon

Horses' welfare ignored so far

News Section Icon Published 15/02/2013

No-one is trying to downplay the horror of not knowing what is in your food. However, Compassion now has to ask: 'what about the welfare?' No-one has commented on the welfare of the horses that ended up in the UK's food chain.

Philip Lymbery, Compassion's CEO, says: "There are urgent questions about the transport and slaughter of horses across the EU that need answering.

"If we didn't know what the meat was, how can we be assured that the horses involved were killed humanely? It would be a double scandal if the welfare of the horses themselves was overlooked."

Compassion has investigated horse transport for slaughter in the EU and found horses enduring gruelling journeys from Romania to Italy. In the case of one particular trail, horses undertook a 26 hour journey without water.

Every year more than 30,000 horses are transported from Central and Eastern Europe to Italy for slaughter.

Philip adds: "We need an urgent inquiry to fix our broken food system. Proper traceability, transparency and enforcement of rules could have prevented this problem."

Compassion has consistently exposed the fact that animal welfare laws are routinely ignored across Europe. EU laws on animal welfare are often woefully under-enforced.

For example, the EU law requiring enrichment materials to be provided for fattening pigs and banning routine tail docking came into force 10 years ago (1 January 2003).

Compassion estimates that since then around two billion fattening pigs EU-wide have suffered from much poorer welfare than they should have had under EU law because of the pig sector's refusal to comply with the law. We need stricter enforcement of the rules that are already in place.

The horse meat scandal has exposed one element of our broken food system, but it goes much further.

As an urgent first step we need clear method of production labelling that tells consumers not only where their meat came from but also how the animal that provided it was reared. The UK should take the lead by introducing compulsory method of production labelling on all meat and dairy products.

Take action:


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).