Thousands of horses awaiting slaughter

Welfare concerns mount as numbers increase

Horses slaughtered last year reached 24,000 compared to 2,002 in 2008.

Horses slaughtered last year reached 24,000 compared to 2,002 in 2008.


Reverberations from the horse meat scandal continue to be felt – this time by those in the horse-fattening industry.

Horses were being fattened for slaughter recently and before the crisis erupted five plants had been slaughtering horses for export. But because of tighter regulations, and public unease with the practice, just one plant – Ashgrove Meats in Newcastlewest – is taking horses. IFA spokesman on horses James Murphy said he was receiving daily calls from people who could not get animals slaughtered and could not afford to keep them.

He said some farmers had more than 200 horses awaiting slaughter. “These fellows would have traditionally been cattle finishers. They obviously saw an opportunity to make some money finishing horses and they bought them, in some cases for very small money, maybe not more than €100. Now they have a real problem.”

Mr Murphy said a solution would have to be found for the thousands of unwanted horses because it was turning into a serious animal welfare issue. A lack of fodder on farms and bad weather was accentuating the woes.

Numbers of horses being slaughtered has increased dramatically in recent years. Some 2,002 horses were slaughtered in 2008, compared to 24,000 last year.

Mr Murphy said it was difficult to say how many horses were awaiting slaughter.

The problem is compounded by the fact that new regulations were introduced in 2009 for the issuing of passports. If a horse was not registered before six months of age, their passports were automatically stamped to say they were not suitable for the food chain in case they had been given potentially harmful medication such as bute. Many of these horses are awaiting slaughtering

A knackery would charge from €130 to €180 to dispose of a horse.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said: “The department is not aware of a specific or significant backlog . . . not all horses are eligible for slaughter for human consumption.”

She said the department had a list of 40 approved knackeries on its website.

There are fears that animals could be released to avoid payment to have them put down. Earlier this week the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warned that it could not take in any more abandoned horses because its centres were at capacity.

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