Emaciated Horses Spur Review of MAST's Supervisory Role Skip to content
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Photo: Golli, an Icelandic horse in Skagafjörður (picture not directly related to the article).

Emaciated Horses Spur Review of MAST’s Supervisory Role

The National Audit Office will launch an assessment of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority’s (MAST) monitoring of animal welfare, RÚV reports. The decision follows, among other things, reports that the desperate condition of roughly twenty horses in Borgarnes had been reported to MAST without any immediate action being taken.

In desperate condition

On Wednesday, news broke that nearly twenty emaciated horses had been kept inside for the entire summer in a stable in Borgarnes. The condition of the horses was described as “desperate.”

Speaking to RÚV on Wednesday, Steinunn Árnadóttir – who also keeps horses in the area – maintained that concerned parties had filed multiple complaints with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), but no action had been taken.

“They’re emaciated. They’re not allowed outside. They don’t see sunlight. They’ve been deprived of green grass. There’s a filly that I saw this spring, probably in May, that’s been inside ever since.”

Following these reports, the horses’ owner – who did not respond to interview requests from RÚV or other outlets – removed the horses from the stables under cover of night. RÚV reported that the person in question, who also keeps sheep and cows in other places in Borgarnes, had exhibited threatening behaviour to other residents.

The Animal Welfare Association of Iceland subsequently released a public statement calling for MAST to take action: “This isn’t the first time that MAST has responded unsatisfactorily to well-reasoned claims of poor treatment of animals. MAST has the legal authority to respond to such complaints without delay … it is clear that a thorough review of the authority’s supervisory role needs to be conducted.”

An assessment is launched

This morning, RÚV reported that the National Audit Office was set to launch an official review of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority’s monitoring of animal welfare. The result of the assessment will be published in a report to Parliament.

Guðmundur Björgvin Helgason, a comptroller with the National Audit Office, stated that now was an opportune time to assess MAST protocols, especially in light of the reports of emaciated horses in Borgarnes.

“We regularly review possible assessments,” Guðmundur remarked, stating that administrative profiling of MAST had been undertaken in 2013, which was the year that animal welfare supervision was moved from the Ministry for the Environment to MAST. “So we’ve never had a point of contact with these sets of issues within MAST until now.”

The National Audit Office’s decision to launch the assessment was, in part, spurred by a few recent instances in which MAST’s supervisory role was criticised. “Which is why we felt that it was an appropriate time to review their role. If we come across any issues with regard to MAST’s supervision, we hope to shed further light on them.”

A brief update

The above-mentioned Steinunn Árnadóttir, who keeps horses in Borgarnes, spoke again to Vísir today, stating that a mare and her filly were still being kept inside the aforementioned stable in Borgarnes, deprived of sunlight. According to Steinunn, the owner had been forced to put his horses, which were malnourished and in desperate conditions, to pasture, but for some reason, the mare and filly were still inside the stable.

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