Welfare of equidae during transport

EFSA J. 2022 Sep 7;20(9):e07444. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2022.7444. eCollection 2022 Sep.


In the framework of its Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of animal welfare legislation. This opinion deals with the protection of horses and donkeys during transport. While the opinion focuses primarily on road transport of horses, there are specific sections dealing with the transport of horses on roll-on-roll-off ferries, horses transported by air and the transport of donkeys. In addition, the opinion covers welfare concerns in relation to a specific scenario identified by the European Commission related to the transport of horses on long journeys to slaughterhouses. Current practices related to transport of horses during the different stages (preparation, loading and unloading, transit and the journey breaks) are described. Overall, 13 welfare consequences were identified as being highly relevant for the welfare of horses during transport based on severity, duration and frequency of occurrence: gastro-enteric disorders, handling stress, heat stress, injuries, isolation stress, motion stress, prolonged hunger, prolonged thirst, respiratory disorders, resting problems, restriction of movement, sensory overstimulation and separation stress. These welfare consequences and their animal-based measures are described. A variety of hazards were identified related to factors such as inexperienced/untrained handlers, lack of horse training, structural deficiencies of vehicles/facilities, poor driving skills/conditions, horse separation/regrouping, unfavourable microclimatic and environmental conditions and poor husbandry practices. The opinion contains general and specific conclusions in relation to the different stages of transport. Recommendations to prevent hazards and correct or mitigate welfare consequences have been developed. Recommendations were also developed to define quantitative thresholds for microclimatic conditions within the means of transport and for space allowance. The development of welfare consequences over time was assessed in relation to maximum journey time.

Keywords: Farm to Fork Strategy; Horse; animal welfare; animal‐based measures; quantitative thresholds; transport; welfare consequences.