Closed petition Introduce national limits on horse breeding

Unrestricted horse breeding has led to an excessive number of equines. The result is the slaughter of thousands of horses each year. We call on the Government to introduce a national limit on the number of equines that can be produced by horse breeders, reducing the number of unwanted horses.

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The absence of Government intervention in horse welfare has led to going equine crises. Over-breeding is a major cause of problems. The Government needs to address this issue by setting clear limits on the number of foals born annually. All breeders would need to apply for a licence to breed horses. There would be significant sanctions for anyone breeding horses without a licence or breeding more horses than licensed to do so, including anyone sending horses to slaughter.

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Government responded

This response was given on 4 August 2021

The Government shares the public’s high regard for animal welfare. We continue to have close engagement with the equine sector and are monitoring the situation regarding the supply of foals.

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The Government shares the public’s high regard for animal welfare, and we are committed to enhancing the UK’s position as a world leader in the protection of animals. The Action Plan for Animal Welfare (APAW) is an ambitious plan which sets out an overview of the Government's main priorities on animal welfare and conservation, including horse welfare. The Action Plan can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/action-plan-for-animal-welfare

The Government continues to take positive action to promote and improve equine welfare. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering or fail to provide for its welfare. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 came into force on the 29 June 2021. The Act’s new maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine will apply to animal cruelty offences, including causing unnecessary suffering, and is a significant step forward in improving animal welfare.

To promote responsible ownership, there is clear guidance available to educate and remind horse owners of their responsibilities to provide for the welfare needs of their animal. The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and Their Hybrids makes clear that you should consider buying or rehoming a youngster before taking the decision to breed. The foal’s individual future must also be considered before breeding from your equine, and the code highlights the UK’s overpopulation problem at the time of publication.
The Code can be found here:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/700200/horses-welfare-codes-of-practice-april2018.pdf

Further information on responsible breeding is available to the public, including World Horse Welfare’s “Need to Breed” initiative which can be found here:
https://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/advice/management/do-you-need-to-breed.

Information regarding the British Horse Society’s “Think Before You Breed” campaign can be found here:
https://www.bhs.org.uk/our-work/welfare/our-campaigns/think-before-you-breed

The welfare of horses at end of life is a priority for the Government. As set out in the Code of Practice, horse owners should proactively develop a plan for a horse’s end of life in order to prevent unnecessary pain and distress. World Horse Welfare provides advice on end of life decision making:
https://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/advice/management/end-of-life .

Euthanasia may be considered in several circumstances, including when a horse's quality of life has deteriorated significantly for example due to chronic or age-related conditions. We would encourage owners to seek a veterinary opinion in such circumstances. If a decision is taken to end a horse's life, they must be humanely destroyed by a vet or a suitably qualified, experienced and equipped person, such as a licensed slaughterman. The welfare of horses at slaughter is governed by the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 1995, The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) 2015 and retained EC Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.

The APAW includes a commitment to pursuing the licensing of animal sanctuaries, rescue and rehoming centres. Defra has been engaging with rescue and rehoming organisations, including those involved with equines, to understand their views and the possible impacts of regulating the sector. Any proposals to bring forward licensing regulations will be subject to a consultation.

There are currently no plans to introduce statutory licensing in relation to the activity of horse breeding. Many other approaches already address the issue of overbreeding. It is also unclear how any national limit on equine births would be implemented and enforced in practice, without introducing significant regulatory burdens. The key issue at stake is how well equines are cared for after they have been born, and existing protections already address this. We continue to have close engagement with key stakeholders in the equine sector and are monitoring the situation regarding the supply of foals.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs