The Longines Global Champions Tour: The Movement of EU High Health High Performance Horses to and from China

By Laura Donnellan, School of Law, University of Limerick, Ireland

The 2018 Longines Global Champions Tour involves the coming together of the world’s top riders and horses.

Over the course of the next eight months, the competitors will travel all around the world. In all, there are seventeen events, beginning in Mexico City from 22-25 March, Miami Beach 5-7 April, Shanghai (20-22 April), Madrid (4-6 May), Hamburg (10-12 May), St Tropez (31 May-2 June ), Cannes (7-9 June), Cascais, Estoril, Portugal (14-16 June), Monaco (28-30 June), Paris (5-7 July), Chantilly (13-15 July), Berlin (27-29 July), London (3-5 August), Valkenswaard, the Netherlands (10th -12 August), Rome (6-9 September), Doha, Qatar (8-10 November) and a final event in Prague (13-16 December) (https://www.gcglobalchampions.com/#season). 

The movement of horses has raised a number of health and safety issues as horses, in particular those originating in the European Union. Upon completion of the competition, these horses return to their country of origin within the EU from third countries. These High Health High Performance (HPP) horses are permitted to travel to international competitions on condition that they are under continuous veterinary supervision, are of good health and fit to compete so as to decrease the likelihood of the horses spreading infectious diseases (World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), High health, high performance (HHP) horses, http://www.oie.int/en/our-scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/international-competition-horse-movement/high-health-high-performance-hhp-horses/).

Diseases, such glanders, pose a biosecurity risk. It is an ancient disease that has been eradicated in the Western world, but it is still present in a number of South American countries and other developing countries, including India.

Leaving animal welfare issues aside, horses competing at elite level can be worth between approximately €300,000 and €10.6 million (Iain Payten, ‘“Biosecure bubble” used to keep horses free of disease ahead of prestigious equestrian events’, The Daily Telegraph, 6 Aug. 2016, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/olympics-2016/biosecure-bubble-used-to-keep-horses-free-of-disease-ahead-of-prestigious-equestrian-events/news-story/141c38ab873c070d05f1e742d1d3e8ed).

Given the stringent requirements under European Union (EU) Law and the movement of horses out of the EU and the return of these horses from competitions in certain third countries, such as China and Mexico, such movements have been the subject of secondary legislation in the form of Directives and Decisions.

Of significance to the Longines Global Champions Tour is the Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/218 of 13 February 2018, amending Annex II to Decision 92/260/EEC as regards the temporary admission of registered horses from certain parts of China, amending Decision 93/195/EEC as regards animal health and veterinary certification conditions for the re-entry of registered horses for racing, competition and cultural events after temporary export to China, Mexico and the United States of America, and amending Annex I to Decision 2004/211/EC as regards the entries for China, Mexico and Turkey in the list of third countries and parts thereof from which imports into the Union of live equidae and semen, ova and embryos of the equine species are authorised.

This Implementing Decision follows the opinion of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF- https://ec.europa.eu/food/committees/paff_en).

The PAFF Committee gives its opinion on matters to the European Commission in relation to the implementation of legislation that is already adopted. In January 2018, the PAFF Committee, in its Summary Report, recommended, inter alia, the shipment to the EU of registered horses originating in Hong Kong via the Equine Disease Free Zone (EDFZ) in Conghua, Guangdong Province, China, where such horses had been resident during the 40 days prior to dispatch and the authorisation of re-entry of these horses from China and Mexico after the completion of the equestrian events of the Longines Global Champions Tour taking place in Mexico City and Shanghai, and any such further events in those third countries (https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/reg-com_cic_20180118_sum.pdf).

The Commission Implementing Decision 2018/218 is of significant importance, as it means that horses in the Equine Disease-Free Zone (EDFZ) in Conghua, Guangzhou, will be regarded as having equivalent health status as horses in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, all equestrian events took place in Hong Kong. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) agreed to relocate to Hong Kong on the basis of the best interests of competition and welfare of horses (IOC, ‘Beijing Olympics: Equestrian Events Moved to Hong Kong’, 5 July 2005, https://www.olympic.org/news/beijing-2008-equestrian-events-moved-to-hong-kong).

Temporary measures were permitted in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017; however, the Commission Implementing Decision 2018/218/EU provides for Shanghai to be recognised permanently as an EFDZ for the Global Champions Tour (see: Commission Implementing Decision 2014/127/EU, Commission Implementing Decision 2015/557/EU, Commission Implementing Decision 2016/361/EU and Commission Implementing Decision 2017/99/EU).

The recognition of Shanghai as a permanent EFDZ was the result of a European Commission site inspection in December 2017 (https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/reg-com_ahw_20180117_int-conf-equine-disease-china-hong-kong.pdf). It coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the Hong Kong SAR and was organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). The Conghua Training Centre (CTC), which is based in the Guangdong Province in China, is scheduled to open in August 2018. It is located 200 kilometres from Hong Kong and will move horses between Hong and the CTC in four to five hours using specifically designed horse floats (https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/reg-com_ahw_20180117_int-conf-equine-disease-china-hong-kong.pdf). There will be four tracks with a capacity for more than 650 horses and will include a bio-security fence.

In welcoming the Commission’s Implementing Decision, Mr Andrew Harding, HKJC’s Executive Director, was quoted as stating that the decision “re-affirms the platinum-standard of the biosecurity arrangements which have been made to support our CTC operation” (Hong Kong Jockey Club, ‘European Commission reaffirms high-health status of racehorses in Equine Disease Free Zone (EDFZ) at Conghua’, 28 February 2018,  http://ctc.hkjc.com/en/news.aspx?in_file=20180228.html).

The European Commission’s decision has amended Annex 1 to Decision 2004/211/EC, so that the time period, referred to in Column 15 of the table, is now replaced with a reference to an animal health certificate to be used on the re-entry into the EU of registered horses having participated in the Global Tour in Shanghai (para. 11 of Decision 2018/218/EU). The Shanghai region is referred to as CN-2 in the amended Decision.