Horse owners are being forced to maintain up-to-date passports for horses. We are told that this is to assist with animal welfare and to prevent meet that is contaminated with certain drugs from entering the food chain. The passport system is failing to achieve either of these goals:
It is possible to obtain a passport for a horse without having to prove ownership. As such, it is relatively easy to get a passport for a stolen horse so passports do little to prevent theft. Although the recent requirement for microchipping of passported horses will help to mitigate this, most passported horses are not presently microchipped.
There was an opportunity to gain national statistics on numbers and breeds of horses present in the UK when the system was set up – but this opportunity was missed. Accurate statistics would help horse charities, but given that they are no collected nationally even this argument for passports doesn't stack up.
Many veterinary surgeons are failing to fill in drugs used on horses in the relevant passports which means that passport records are not accurate when it comes to meat entering the human food chain. The ability to obtain a passport for a horse without having to prove the previous veterinary treatments also makes the human food chain argument invalid.
Given that the passports do not serve their intended purpose, they effectively become a tax and an administrative burden on horse owners.
Many horse owners also do not feel that it is ethical to compulsorarily microchip horses (a surgical procedure that carries some risk, however small) given that there is little or no welfare benefit to horse or to humans from this procedure.
The requirements for control of drugs in the human food chain could easily be met without compulsory passports by requiring that only horses WITH passports are allowed into the human food chain. Horses that are disposed of that don't have passports would then have to be either buried or their meet used for non-human purposes. As such, a voluntary passport scheme fulfils european requirements without putting an excessive and unecessary burden on horse owners.