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FEI Urged to Reverse Mandatory Horse Microchipping

The following letter was sent to FEI President, HRH Princess Haya AL HUSSEIN, FEI First Vice-President, Mr. John C. MCEWEN and FEI Second Vice-President, Dr. Pablo Tomas MAYORGA.

The letter outlines potential dangers associated with microchipping horses, and asks the FEI to reverse its decision to require horse owners to have their horses microchipped in order to compete in an FEI competition.

FEI members, affiliates and horse owners are asked to review this information carefully, and take steps to urge the FEI to reverse its decision regarding mandatory microchipping.


November 22, 2012

HRH Princess Haya AL HUSSEIN
Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)
HM King Hussein I Building
Chemin de la Joliette 8
1006 Lausanne, Switzerland

Re: Article 1011.1.2.3 - Mandatory Microchipping of FEI Horses

Dear HRH Princess Haya AL HUSSEIN,

Horses participating in FEI competitions have historically been identified by a FEI-approved passport, which is examined at a mandatory veterinary inspection that occurs at every FEI horse show. This method of identification has been safe and successful.

In addition to having a passport, a new FEI regulation (Article 1011.1.2.3) now requires horse owners to have a microchip (foreign object) implanted in horses that are newly registered with the FEI beginning January 01, 2013. With this ruling, all FEI horses will eventually be required to be microchipped.

Published scientific studies, veterinary reports, adverse microchip reports and other credible data show that there are serious health risks and reliability issues associated with microchipping.

Requiring horse owners to have a potentially dangerous and unreliable microchip implanted in their horses is contrary to “The FEI’s Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse,” which states:

  “The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) requires all those involved in international equestrian sport to adhere to the FEI’s Code of Conduct and to acknowledge and accept that at all times the welfare of the horse must be paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.”

The Code also states, “Any practices which could cause physical or mental suffering, in or out of Competition, will not be tolerated.”

In light of this information, it is important to:
  1. Reverse FEI Article 1011.1.2.3 and any other regulations that require FEI horses to be microchipped.

  2. Immediately notify horse owners, riders, trainers, breeders, veterinarians, grooms and others who are involved with the safety and care of horses, about the potential health risks and other problems associated with microchipping.

  3. Enact legislation to require the reporting of all problems that occur because of microchipping.
Included below in Appendix 1 is detailed information outlining the health risks associated with microchipping horses, as well as other problems arising from the use of microchips, that can clearly affect the horse’s health and welfare.

Included below in Appendix 2 is a list of important questions that the FEI should answer if mandatory microchipping is not repealed.

A list of supporting references is available in Appendix 3.

Thank you for your dedication to the FEI and equestrians around the world.


Victoria Grant


Appendix 1: Health Risks, Reliability Concerns & Other Problems With Microchips

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) writes:

  “The potential risks to health associated with the device [microchip implant] are: adverse tissue reaction; migration of implanted transponder; compromised information security; failure of implanted transponder; failure of inserter; failure of electronic scanner; electromagnetic interference; electrical hazards; magnetic resonance imaging incompatibility; and needle stick.”

Nerve Damage
Veterinarians E. G. A. Laarakker, C. Wilekens, M. Kelfkens and F. Kokke in The Netherlands documented a case in 2005 regarding a mare that experienced nerve damage because of her microchip implant. In the report they also say that all of the veterinarians in their clinic share the opinion that chipping horses is not safe.

Muscle Changes
The article “Schenkelbrand Ist Vertretbar,” which was published in Pferd+Sport in March 2012, says that Dr. Volker Steinkraus, professor of dermatology, examined skin particles of horses that were microchipped. His research shows that chipping “perforates the skin and infections or encapsulation can develop. The researched tissue samples showed distinct muscle changes.”

Peer-reviewed, published scientific papers show that a variety of species have developed cancerous growths at or near the site of their microchip implant.

In the scientific document entitled “Microchip-Associated Fibrosarcoma in a Cat” that was published in 2011 in Veterinary Dermatology, researchers from the Istituto Zooprofilatico Sperimentale delle Venezie in Italy write, “[Veterinarians] should be aware that tumours can develop at microchip sites.”

Considering that gray horses are predisposed to develop melanomas, it is not wise to implant a potentially carcinogenic object in their body, or in the body of any horse, as it may increase their chance of developing unsightly and dangerous growths.

Lumps and Infections
Abscesses, lumps and infections have occurred in horses because of microchip implants.

A graphic video of a horse having a microchip removed from a very large abscess in its neck is available at youtube.com.

Injections and Therapeutic Modalities
Vaccines and other injections are routinely given to horses. Unless a microchipped horse is scanned before a needle is inserted in its neck, it is possible to unintentionally hit the microchip with the needle and/or disturb the tissue that has formed around the microchip.

Therapeutic modalities such as acupuncture, magnets, lasers and light emitting diodes (LED’s) are also used on horses. However, we do not know the effect that these forms of therapy may have on the microchip or surrounding tissue when they are used at or near the site of the microchip implant.

Migration (Unwanted Movement) of Microchip Implant
A microchip can move from the original site of implantation. Movement of a microchip from one bodily location to another can be dangerous for the horse. It can also make it difficult to locate and read the chip.

Although some microchips have an anti-migrational sheath that is supposed to prevent the implant from moving around the body, researchers who examined microchip-induced tumors in rodents observed that the cancerous growths often started at the part of the microchip that has the anti-migrational sheath.

Site of Implanted Microchip
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) says:

  “[I]n the equine, there are two recognized implantation sites currently in use.
a) The microchip is implanted within the nuchal ligament in its middle third or at the halfway point between the ears and the withers. This is the recommended implantation site in all countries except Australia.

b) The microchip is implanted in the musculature of the left neck or the anterior injection triangle. Clipping of the hair, local anaesthetic and aseptic technique is required. This is the recommended implantation site in Australia.”

The nuchal ligament of a horse runs from the poll to the withers. Then it becomes the supraspinous ligament, which continues down the back to the sacrum. The nuchal ligament supports and maintains the position of the horse’s head and neck. It also plays an important role in supporting the horse’s back.

Proper functioning of the nuchal ligament is vital in order for a horse to train and compete without pain and to the best of his ability. It is also vital in order for a horse to perform daily and essential lifetime activities, such as stretching his neck downwards to eat. Implanting a microchip in the nuchal ligament of a horse is risky and unnecessary.

Implanting a microchip in a horse’s muscle is also potentially dangerous. Research by Dr. Steinkraus previously mentioned in this document shows that distinct muscle changes can occur because of microchip implants. Also previously mentioned is a disturbing video of a horse having a microchip removed from a very large abscess in its neck.

Failure of Microchip Implant
The implanted chip can fail for a variety of reasons. For example, the device can stop working, it can be expelled from the body, or it can be “lost” within the body.

Researchers have also noticed that microchips have failed to work “due to microscopic cracks in the weld of the antenna leads to the microchips” and “leakage of the glass capsule resulting in fluid accumulation around the microchip.”

In 2012, Virbac admitted that some of their microchips were faulty and could not identify the animal in which it was implanted. The inability to read the correct identification number has proven to be a costly and frustrating experience for owners of microchipped animals, particularly when the microchips are a compulsory form of identification.

In order to compensate for the faulty microchips, Virbac recommended that another chip should be implanted in the animal. However, implanting another chip in an animal does not guarantee that the new chip will work for the lifetime of the animal. Also, implanting multiple chips in an animal increases its chance of experiencing an adverse microchip reaction.

Failure of Scanning Device
Microchip scanning devices (including “universal scanners”) can fail to identify the correct identification number. Scanners can even fail to locate a microchip that is implanted in an animal.

One of several reasons that a scanner may not be able to read a chip is because of the “intentional incompatibility” of competing microchip-scanner technologies. Selling microchips and scanners that are not compatible with competing brands indicates that chipping companies are more interested in protecting their patents and market share than in providing scanners that can locate and accurately read all microchip implants.

Lifespan of Microchip Implant
According to promotional information, a microchip implant lasts the lifetime of the animal. However, it is an extremely vague statement that is not based on accurate, objective, long-term scientific studies.

Angela Fulcher, Vice-President for Marketing and Sales of VeriChip Corporation (a company that was created in order to promote and sell human microchip implants) says, “We believe the tags [microchip implants] can last 20 years.” Other reports indicate that the average lifespan of a microchip implant is 10 to 15 years.

Considering that horses can live well into their thirties, and some even live into their forties, it is not logical to rely on a microchip implant to identify a horse.

Also, considering that technology is changing rapidly, it is not wise to invest in a system that may soon be obsolete. Jim Gowan, member of the Equine Species Working Group (ESWG) says:

  “With today’s technology, how long will microchips be the system of choice? Maybe we don’t want to be locked into this, with chips in all our horses. If something better and more feasible comes along, then we’d have to switch systems and that could be very costly.”  

Temperature-Sensing Microchip Implant
Temperature-sensing microchip implants are being marketed for use in horses and other animals even though company literature says the temperature-sensing devices are not accurate.

Written in extra fine print in Destron Fearing’s promotional literature titled “LifeChip®: Equine Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) Microtransponder System with Bio-Thermo® Technology,” it says the temperature-sensing microchip implant “will not replicate rectal temperature.” It also says:

  “Conclusion: The study horse’s actual temperature will be 3º higher than Bio-Thermo readings. Knowing this, the horse’s manager or veterinarian will be able to quickly and easily identify if the horse’s temperature is abnormal by adding 3º to the Bio-Thermo reading.”  

False temperature readings produced by temperature-sensing microchip implants can have disastrous consequences for the health and well-being of horses.

Intentional Duplication of Microchip Identification Numbers
Chris Laurence, Chairman of the Microchip Advisory Group (MAG) and former Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust in the UK, admits that microchip implant numbers can be duplicated.

Dr. Hannis Stoddard, DVM, president of AVID microchip implants says, “Unencrypted ISO chips can be easily and quickly cloned.”

Also, several years ago Barbara Masin of Electronic Identification Devices, Ltd. (EID) and distributor of Trovan microchips tried to warn the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the ease in which ISO microchips can be cloned. However, she was ignored. She says, “I went to the USDA listening sessions and offered to show them the problem with duplication possibilities, but they didn’t want to see it. The situation is very political.”

Specific information about cloning microchip identification numbers is available on the Internet. A few links that pertain to cloning implantable microchips are included at the end of this document. (See Appendix 3)

Unintentional Duplication of Microchip Identification Numbers
The lack of strict, independent oversight of the microchip industry has resulted in the unintentional duplication of microchip numbers. Rachel Crowe, BSc, PhD, ACIM, of Virbac Ltd UK, writes:

  “Virbac has become aware of a potential problem regarding some microchips, prefixed 978, being sold in the UK, which are not logged on the Virbac BackHome database.

These are not BackHome microchips. The prefix number 978 refers to the manufacturer of the microchips, rather than to Virbac as such. As this manufacturer also provides these microchips to a distributor other than Virbac, some microchips that bear the prefix number 978 on the UK market, cannot, therefore, necessarily be considered as having been distributed by Virbac … Therefore, Virbac cannot be liable for these other microchips, even if they start with the prefix 978.”

Also, microchip kits are being sold via the Internet. As a result, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to verify the origin of the chip and insertion device, or to know if a microchip identification number is unique.

Computer Viruses
In 2006, researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands warned that, “a completely different category of threats arises when hackers or criminals cause valid RFID tags to behave in unexpected (and generally malicious) ways.”

The researchers also use an example of how a cat’s microchip implant could be infected with a computer virus, which could infect the database of the veterinarian or the database of whomever scans the cat. They write:

  “Unlike a biological virus, which jumps from animal to animal, an RFID virus spread this way jumps from animal to database to animal. The same transmission mechanism that applies to pets also applies to RFID-tagged livestock.”  

In 2009, Dr. Mark N. Gasson of the University of Reading in the UK conducted an experiment on himself to show how a human microchip implant (which is similar, if not identical, to animal microchip implants) could be infected with a computer virus. Dr. Gasson writes:

  “The result is that the virus is copied into the new profile field for all tags, and so any tag subsequently using the system will likely become overwritten and infected. A feature of a computer virus is that it must have the ability to self-replicate, and this is evident here. Having corrupted the database contents in such a way to allow replication, there is a further ‘payload’ (some additional malicious activity) associated with the virus.”  

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Incompatibility
One of the problems of using MRI diagnostics for a microchipped horse is that the implant can impede MRI diagnostics. The authors of the study titled “Evaluation of the Susceptibility Artifacts and Tissue Injury Caused by Implanted Microchips in Dogs on 1.5T Magnetic Resonance Imaging” write:

  “There was significant signal loss and image distortion over a wide range around the area where the microchip was implanted. This change was consistent with susceptibility artifacts, which rendered the affected area including the spinal cord undiagnostic.”  

This means that if a horse requires MRI and the chip is located at or near the area that needs to be diagnosed, the implant will cause the image to be distorted, which defeats the purpose of using MRI to diagnose the problem.


Appendix 2:

If the FEI pursues its decision to preserve Article 1011.1.2.3 or any other regulation that requires FEI horses to be microchipped, horse owners, trainers, riders, barn managers and anyone who is interested in this topic, will require clear and specific answers to the following questions:
  1. Why does the FEI require the implantation of a potentially dangerous and unreliable microchip implant (foreign object) in horses for identification purposes, particularly when passports approved by the FEI and veterinary inspections at FEI competitions have a history of safely and successfully identifying horses that participate in FEI events?

  2. Why has the FEI passed legislation (mandatory microchipping) that has the potential to harm horses even though “The FEI Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse” specifically says, “[A]t all times the welfare of the horse must be paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial purposes”?

  3. Will a microchipped horse be allowed to compete in a FEI event if its chip has stopped working and, therefore, cannot identify the horse?

    If the answer is “Yes, the horse can compete,” then what is the purpose  of requiring a microchip in order to identify a horse?

    If the answer is “No, the horse cannot compete,” then how will the FEI justify the decision knowing that: Microchip implants can and do fail; passports approved by the FEI and veterinary inspections that occur prior to the start of all FEI horse shows have a history of safely and successfully identifying horses; a tremendous amount of time, training and financial resources have been invested in order to prepare and bring the horse to a FEI competition; the decision could mean that a horse cannot compete in a FEI World Cup Qualifier, FEI World Cup Final, FEI World Equestrian Games etc…?

  4. What is the correct protocol that should be followed if a microchip implant stops working? For example, should the faulty chip remain in the horse or should it be surgically removed? Also, what procedures should be followed in order to update the horse’s passport with the new microchip number?

  5. Who is financially responsible for fees associated with the care and/or loss of use of a horse that experiences an adverse microchip reaction?

  6. Who is financially responsible for fees associated with the failure of a microchip implant and/or scanning device?

  7. Who is financially responsible for problems caused because of duplicate microchip identification numbers?

  8. Why are horse owners and those involved in the horse industry not being advised of potential health risks and reliability concerns associated with microchipping?

  9. Who will be allowed to implant microchips in horses and what measures will be taken to ensure that the procedure is done safely and correctly?

  10. What guarantee do horse owners have that microchip implants and insertion devices are sterile?

  11. What safety procedures have been established (and will be enforced) in order to protect the privacy of horse owners whose personal information is contained in microchip databases?

  12. Why is mandatory microchipping of horses being implemented by the FEI, yet it is not mandatory to report an adverse reaction or any other problem caused by a microchip implant?

Appendix 3:

"Microchip Implants: Questions and Answers" - noble-leon.com/letters/

"Are Pet Owners Being Misled Regarding the Safety and Reliability of Microchip Implants?" - noble-leon.com/letters/

"Microchip Implants: Technological Solution or 21st Century Nightmare?" - noble-leon.com/letters/

Peer-reviewed, published scientific reports that show that microchip implants have caused cancer, nerve damage, death due to the microchip implant procedure and other problems. - noble-leon.com/resourcesAdvanced/

"Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990–2006" - antichips.com/cancer/

"Microchip Implants: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions" - www.antichips.com/faq/

European websites that have been created to educate horse owners about the dangers of microchipping horses. - invisio.nl/antichip/ and diervriendelijkeidentificatie.wordpress.com

“Chip Probleem (Ontsteking)”: Video of the removal of a microchip implant from a very large abscess in a horse’s neck. - youtube.com

Information that explains how to duplicate a microchip identification number. - youtube.com, cq.cx and cq.cx

“Human Enhancement: Could You Become Infected With A Computer Virus?” by Dr. Mark N. Gasson, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, UK - personal.reading.ac.uk

August 2013
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