Twenty six 'frightened and vulnerable' horses rescued from a smuggling attempt in Kent and are now being cared for in Norfolk. 

Authorities discovered the animals in a crammed transport which was set to be exported through Europe. 

Only 19 of the horses had the necessary paperwork for the journey and health issues meant many of them were unfit to travel. 

They were rescued by the charity World Horse Welfare, which works to improve the lives of horses.

Chief Executive Roly Owens said: "We applaud the authorities for taking action in this case and stopping the vehicle, but far too often these lorries cross boarders unchecked. 

"From our initial investigations the horses were allegedly travelling from the Republic of Ireland to France, using Britain as a land- bridge. But they are all British-born horses with some being bought from sales in England shortly before supposedly being 'imported' back into the county.

"It is highly likely that they would have been travelled for hours to potentially end their lives in a European slaughterhouse."

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The animals were transported to the Norfolk Rescue and Rehoming Centre where they were found to be carrying the highly contagious disease Equine Influenza. 

The farm was forced to go into lockdown to minimise the chance of the disease spreading. 

At least five of the mares were pregnant and one was suffering from laminitis, a condition which affects the hoof. 

An elderly mare with extreme arthritis had to be put down due to her poor condition. 

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The charity is campaigning for a ban on the live export of horses for slaughter from Britain.

"This case highlights the tragic reality we believe countless equines have to suffer through being exported to slaughter," said Mr Owens. 

Currently the UK Government's Animal Welfare (Live Exports) Bill is progressing though the House of Lords.