An interim report revealing the opinions of equestrians and the general public on the use of the horse in sport, and a proposed foundation for a new equine welfare strategy for the FEI, will be presented for discussion at a dedicated Session during the 2022 FEI Hybrid General Assembly in Cape Town (RSA).
The report will include the analysis of two separate surveys – one to a worldwide public and the other to the equestrian community – carried out by the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing (EEWB) Commission that was formed as an independent advisory body by the FEI in June 2022.
Chaired by internationally recognised animal behaviour and welfare scientist Professor Dr. Natalie Waran, the Commission is composed of 10 members who have been selected for their expertise in equine welfare, equitation science, ethics, education and public affairs. Their ultimate goal is to develop a strategy that will allow the FEI to address current and future concerns related to the use of horses in sport.
As part of their first phase of work, the Commission carried out a survey of equestrian stakeholders in August that attracted almost 28,000 responses including feedback from FEI affiliated athletes, horse owners and other FEI stakeholders. The public survey – conducted by market research company Savanta in 13 countries – sought the views of individuals who are not involved with or knowledgeable about horses in order to determine the general public’s perception of the use of horses in sport.
The EEWB Commission is basing the development of the proposed equine welfare strategy on information gathered from equestrian stakeholders within and outside the FEI, the general public, expert forums, the media and published research. In making early recommendations related to maintaining a Social Licence, the Commission will continue to seek expert, public and equestrian stakeholder input, as well as analysing existing FEI policy and practice to identify how it can be improved in relation to equine ethics and wellbeing, including evaluating the current FEI regulations related to horse welfare.
“Equestrian sport and the FEI’s role in the governance of horse sport has never been subject to as much scrutiny as it is today,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.
“As an organisation, the FEI needs to better understand what we can continue to do, and what needs to change in order to maintain the trust and confidence of the public. The time has come for us to focus not just on providing the best service to our community, but also on what we must do to be the best for equestrian sport.
“This is why the FEI set up this Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission, to provide an independent study of our current social license to operate and to come up with a set of recommendations that are based on real feedback and unbiased data. We look forward to the first report they will provide to FEI members during the General Assembly week in Cape Town this month.”
The Session, which will be held on 12 November in Cape Town, is the first opportunity for the Commission to interact with National Federations, and the stakeholders with whom the FEI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
“We would like to thank all of those who took part in our surveys – your responses are extremely valuable and have provided us with a lot of information to help with identifying concerns and opportunities about horse use in sport,” Chair of the EEWB Commission Professor Dr. Natalie Waran said. “Our independent advice and recommendations regarding equine welfare will make good use of the feedback we have received”.
“Ensuring that horse sport maintains its social licence to operate requires all equestrians within and outside of the FEI to not only say they are committed, but to be seen to be committed – to proactively ensure that equine welfare is prioritised before any other agenda. There are many examples of good practice, but it’s important for all equestrians to recognise that there are always improvements that can be made especially with new knowledge available, and where public attitudes towards animal welfare are growing. To those who completed the surveys, the Commission has heard you loud and clear, and we are already making good use of this information to inform recommendations we make to the FEI.”
Following the 2022 FEI General Assembly, the Commission will continue to meet virtually and in-person. They will present a second report for discussion at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2023 before a final report will be submitted for approval at the FEI General Assembly 2023 in Mexico.
Summaries of the Commission’s meetings, including a recap of the teleconference meeting that will be held on 1 November, can be found here.