20 March 2017

European Parliament votes to improve working equine welfare

On Tuesday 14 March, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a report put forward by MEP Julie Girling that outlined a demand for improved welfare standards for seven million horses, donkeys and mules.

The ‘Responsible Ownership of Equids’ report contained details on the role and importance of working horses, donkeys and mules in Europe, and stressed that their welfare is vital. It acknowledged that these animals support people’s livelihoods, and that owners and users should have guidance on how to care for them.

It was passed by a landslide vote of 656 votes out of the 691 MEPs present, without amendments and modifications – a unanimous decision. However it is not yet binding for European countries, so there’s still more work to be done. 

This is a fantastic result that shows real acknowledgement of the role working horses, donkeys and mules play in people’s lives around the world.

Dil Peeling, Director of Animal Welfare and Sustainability at Brooke 

"It’s the first step towards solid legislation in Europe. We hope to see the recommendations extended in future too.

"The report is correct in saying that owners and users require training and education to better look after their working equines, but these people often experience extreme economic difficulties. This means it may be hard to apply what they learn. If we want to see real improvement and change, there is so much more we can do.

“Nevertheless, this is a huge win for working horses, donkeys and mules. It will also help us at Brooke increase political pressure on governments outside of Europe to make improvements to working equine welfare.”

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Brooke has on the ground programmes operating in 11 different countries, but has advocacy work that stretches even further. The team provided technical knowledge, data and advice to several Members of the European Parliament, and in particular to Nuno Melo MEP, who was shadow rapporteur on the report. 

The result of the vote was pleasing for Nuno Melo, who has dedicated much of his own time to this cause. He also called on the Commission to commit itself to programmes of financial support for the preservation and protection of native species of horses, donkeys and mules in the wild or in danger of extinction in the EU.

He said: “As Shadow Rapporteur I was concerned to underline the importance of equids in every region of Europe, particularly in the rural areas, in the context of subsistence farming and in mountainous and difficult to reach regions, where it is clear that equids – working equids - are still playing a crucial role. 

This report is a step forward but we need to do more to offer concrete support for these animals and their owners in the near future.

The report also referred to the global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules, approved last year by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Brooke has recently joined The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare in a coalition to support the implementation of these standards worldwide.


European animal advocacy organisation Eurogroup for Animals have also released a statement welcoming the report.