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Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 January 2009, Official Report, column 886W, on horse passports, what his latest estimate is of the number of equidae in England; and what assessment he has made of the efficacy of horse passports against the objectives set for the scheme. (250187)

There is no figure available for the number of equidae in England. However, estimates of the horse population in Great Britain range from 1.0 to 1.35 million. Horse passports are an EU requirement introduced to prevent contaminated meat from entering the human food chain. Passports are also intended to reduce fraud and aid disease control and surveillance. The Meat Hygiene Service play an important role in ensuring that the horse is correctly identified and its passport is in order before horses are accepted for slaughter for human consumption. Samples are taken from a small number of horses entering the food chain as part of the UK statutory surveillance programme checking the appropriate use of veterinary medicinal products. In cases of non-compliance the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which operates this programme, requires an investigation to be carried out which involves checking the details on the passport of the animal.