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Poland: Horse suffering at folk festival


FOUR PAWS uncovers appalling conditions at the annual horse market at Skaryszew


One of the largest Polish traditional horse markets in Skaryszew dates back to the 16th century. As part of a folk festival hundreds of horses change hands, unfortunately sometimes in the most horrific conditions. The market, which took place a few days ago, has already attracted the attention of animal welfare organisations and there have been many protests about the mistreatment of horses. This includes, horses being injured, lack of water for the stressed animals and failure to comply with transport regulations.

Numerous abuses

Officially veterinary inspections are on site, however FOUR PAWS international has uncovered numerous abuses. FOUR PAWS Farm Animals expert Nina Jamal comments on the cruel "spectacle", " Not only are the horses not fed and watered in many instances, they are also hit and kicked. The horses have to stand crammed together for hours on end, before being brutally driven into transporters by wire whips." The FOUR PAWS team witnessed many frightened and distressed horses, which were drenched with sweat as they endured cold temperatures. There were also injured and sick animals in need of emergency veterinary treatment, and mares that had been separated from their foals were suffering with bulging udders."


The transport conditions were also dreadful, and in contravention of the EU Directive on the transport of animals. Ms Jamal: "The transporters were too low and too small – the horses couldn’t stand straight and were packed in together which distressed them considerably. The horses were also brutally pushed into the transporters up ramps which were too steep." FOUR PAWS staff followed one transporter through Poland and discovered that horses were denied any water during the long trip.

Horsemeat does not have to be declared

Most horses are taken directly from the market in Skaryszew to slaughter houses both inside and outside Poland. Up to 75% of all horses destined for slaughter will go to Italy, then China, Kazakhstan, USA, Mexico, Argentina and Russia. Poland is one of the largest producers of horsemeat (around 21,000 tonnes per year). The main consumers of horsemeat are in Europe and include the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland.


Commenting on the lack of transparency in Europe’s horsemeat industry, Jamal explains, "Unlike with beef, for horsemeat the land of origin does not have to be declared, so customers do not know where the meat comes from." For a long time FOUR PAWS has been calling for mandatory labelling for all types of meat products, showing where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered.

Traditions without animal suffering

Robert Hengl, Head of Horse Welfare at FOUR PAWS, says, "Traditions can be preserved without animal suffering. They should reflect appreciation for the animals and the vital role they have played in people’s lives for centuries. We are going to try to establish contact with the Polish authorities in order to ensure better treatment of the horses at the market, and compliance with all legal requirements."