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Help The Horses

Each week over 100 lorries crammed with horses arrive at the Italian border. Many will have travelled almost 1,500 miles, often without water, food or rest, contrary to European Union law. A large number will suffer serious injuries en-route – some will collapse resulting in a few being trampled to death!

Certain countries in Europe, predominantly France, Belgium and Italy, consume horsemeat. This results in a massive live transportation trade involving many European countries. Animal welfare groups, and the UK’s general public, have long opposed the live export trade. It has never been necessary to tackle this issue in the UK as the rules preventing the export of live horses for meat are already established. Sadly, no such rules are in place in any other European countries. Horse traders scour Europe to find the cheapest animals and, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, their attention has focused on the newly emerged trading opportunities with these countries. Recently, Italian horse traders have centered their attention on the horses in Lithuania. This has resulted in horrendously long journeys for the horses as they are forced to endure a crossing of at least six international borders. In 2000, Lithuania exported just under 11,000 horses for slaughter, which equates to around 500 lorries (400 lorries in 1999).

In Autumn of 1999, Naturewatch funded a major investigation into the export of live horses from Lithuania to Italy. The German organisation Animals’ Angels, who have been monitoring live exports throughout Europe for a number of years, gave expert guidance to the Lithuanian State Veterinary Service, Lithuanian Society for the Protection of Animals (LiSPA), Lithuanian television and Ben Noreikis (our full-time representative and co-ordinator in Lithuania) in their investigations. Following the initial investigation, including hard hitting video evidence, a series of campaigns were launched in October 1999, February 2000 and January 2001, in order to address the serious welfare issues.

  • We exposed, on national Lithuanian television and in the press, the horrific reality of the live export of Lithuanian horses and the terrible cruelty endured by these animals – everyone in Lithuania knew about this once hidden trade;
  • We funded an investigation into the live export of Lithuanian horses which exposed the terrible cruelty;
  • Investigation results were presented to the authorities and backed up with photographs and video footage;
  • Naturewatch supporters sent over 9,000 letters of complaint to the Italian Ambassador in London;
  • A meeting was held with the Italian Embassy in London to discuss our grave concerns.

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