Horse owners call for solution to problem of 20,000 unwanted animals

Group says fresh thinking is needed by Government

Just 10,711 horses were slaughtered last year, compared with 24,363 in 2012.

Just 10,711 horses were slaughtered last year, compared with 24,363 in 2012.

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 01:00

A group of horse owners known as Horsecare Ireland has called for fresh thinking from the Government to

eliminate the problem of unwanted horses. Horsecare Ireland chairman John Martin Griffin said as many as 20,000 horses had no market value following the recession and the horsemeat scandal.

He said the Government plan was about removing abandoned or maltreated horses one at a time for welfare reasons. “This must be done, of course, but we need more forward thinking. We’re saying we need to take a systematic look at the crisis. ”

His group has been holding rallies around the country to highlight the problem, and he said thousands of farmers had engaged with the group.

Mr Griffin said there were many instances where horse numbers had spiralled out of control, such as one case where an owner had 800 horses on multiple sites around the country.

Last month 85 horses were seized in Cork in one of the biggest round-ups of its kind in the country.

Mr Griffin said before the horse-meat crisis some unwanted horses were slaughtered for their meat, even if they were ineligible, as regulations were lax.

If a horse has not been issued with a passport before it reaches six months it must be excluded from the food chain in case it has received potentially harmful medication.

Policing of these regulations has been tightened since the horse-meat scandal, and several meat plants have stopped slaughtering horses. Just 10,711 horses were slaughtered last year, compared with 24,363 in 2012.

Owners of unwanted horses could send them to a knackery but they would have to pay between €140-€200 to have the carcasses disposed of.

Fine Gael MEP Maireád McGuinness has also called for action by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, saying people could not afford to have unwanted horses put down.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said: “At an EU level I am going to make inquiries in regard to the Belgian request for a derogation from EU legislation which would assist them in solving a problem similar to the one we have in Ireland; that is a surplus of horses with no economic value.”