Horses and animal welfare groups won a victory this week in Germany as the long debated practice of branding horses with hot irons was officially banned. Horse breeding associations have fought against the ban since it was first proposed in October 2010.
German Minister of Agriculture Isle Aigner finally came to the long awaited decision this week, declaring hot iron branding illegal. The ban will become an amendment to the country’s Animal Welfare Act once it is finalized by parliament this fall. Germany will join Denmark, Scotland and the Netherlands in outlawing the practice.
The European Union requires all horses to be individually identified. Their recommended method is microchipping, but major German Warmblood breed associations have fought against the technique in favor of the traditional method which brand’s a horse on the haunches.
The breeders say branding a horse with a large symbol, cuts down on thefts. They do not believe a microchip will serve as a theft deterrent the way a brand does. They also claim there is a risk of people tampering with microchips, errors in reading them and bodily rejections of chips.
A recent study added even more fuel to the breeders’ opposition when it found that hot iron branding wasn’t any more stressful to a horse than injecting a microchip.
Animal welfare groups were not deterred by the study and explained the inhumane nature of using a hot iron on the horses. One group attended a Hanoverian elite foal show and sale last month carrying posters of a woman with a brand burn on her bare back.
“Scientific experts do not agree about the effects of branding on horses, but we are still talking about a third-degree burn which is very painful,” read the poster.
Hans-Joachim Gotz, DVM, president of the German Veterinary Association agreed with the animal activists, “Hot iron branding is no longer consistent with modern equine welfare standards.”
The ban will be part of a general amendment to the Animal Welfare Act which also includes a ban on piglet castration and stricter policies on using animals, particularly primates in medical research.
In the United States, hot branding is legal, but freeze branding has become the common practice. The method is used by BLM on rounded up wild Mustangs. The process is more expensive and takes longer than hot branding, but is accepted as “much less painful to the animal.”
Photo Credit: scottswigart