Scheme for the disposal of unwanted horses ready to go but Minister not sure it’s needed

Coveney says he is determined to stamp out dog-fighting

The Department of Agriculture has a scheme "ready to go" to help dispose of abandoned and unwanted horses, but Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney

has said he’s not convinced it’s needed.

Some animal welfare organisations have expressed concern about the high number of abandoned horses on State land, such as Nama-owned properties and forests, since equine identity regulations were tightened up after the horse meat scandal.

More than 24,000 horses were slaughtered in meat factories last year, compared with about 6,000 this year.


Irish Farmers' Association horse committee chairman James Murphy has called on the Minister to provide a disposal scheme for unwanted and abandoned horses.

Welfare line
Mr Coveney said that his department "will intervene" if it sees a widespread horse welfare problem through abandonment or malnutrition, but that people can contact his department's welfare line if they cannot feed their horses.

“There was this assumption that because there were an awful lot of horses slaughtered last year and a lot less this year that there’s a huge cohort of horses that nobody wants and that we were going to intervene and subsidise the slaughtering of those,” he said.

“That is a policy option that we could adopt and we have a scheme that has been thought through and can be implemented if we need it. But I’m not convinced we need it actually.

“Instead, what we are doing is we are resourcing local authorities to intervene and to confiscate horses when they need to. I don’t want to be rewarding people for taking on horses that they can’t afford to keep.

“I don’t want to kill any animal that doesn’t need to be killed . . . but if it’s in the animal’s interest to be humanely killed we’ll have to intervene and do that.”

Under review
He said that the situation was being kept under review and if it became too big a problem for local authorities to deal with "then we can gear up to that if we need to".

Britain is facing a similar problem with charities warning that 7,000 horses are at risk of abandonment and neglect.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times