Wales politics

Horsemeat scandal: Database call by minister Alun Davies

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Media captionThe horsemeat scandal has prompted calls for a rethink on so-called horse passports

Tighter controls on the movement of horses - scrapped last year by the UK government - should be returned, says Wales' deputy agriculture minister.

Alun Davies' comments come just weeks after meat suppliers in Wales were caught up in the horsemeat scandal.

Mr Davies said: "It prevents creating the traceability we need. We can't do it on our own, we need a UK structure."

A Defra spokesperson said it was already working to "introduce new quality standards for passports".

The horse passport system was introduced in 2005 in response to an EU directive aimed at ensuring animals destined for the food chain were drug-free.

The National Equine Database (Ned) was set up in 2006 and kept a record of more than a million horses on the database.

Image caption Every horse in the UK must hold a horse passport and its owner is required to ensure this happens

Last year the UK government scrapped the database because of budget cuts.

It said renewing the contract would have cost taxpayers £600,000 over the next four years.

Mr Davies said the move has made it harder to prevent horsemeat ending up in the UK's food chain, as well as tracking which had been exported and where they came from.

He said: "That's enormously important for us in terms of managing the UK horse population.

"I'm terribly disappointed that the UK government abolished it without any reference to us at all."

There are 80 places to obtain a horse passport in Britain.

In 2009, it was strengthened by the addition of a requirement that all foals should be micro-chipped as an additional safety measure.

Veterinary medicines

A Defra spokesperson said: "The horse passport issuing system needs improvement and Defra is already working with the Equine Council for Health and Welfare to introduce new quality standards for passports, making them more difficult to tamper with.

"All horses must hold a passport showing details of its identity and the veterinary medicines it has received. The owner is legally responsible for making sure this happens.

"It's illegal to obtain and use a fraudulent passport that omits the horse's history. Doing so could lead to a fine of up to £5,000."

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