Scheme urged to address problem of abandoned horses

Horses being abandoned on State lands to avoid disposal charges

IFA president John Bryan said many people bought horses during the boom years and could no longer feed them or find a home for them. Photograph: Eric Luke

IFA president John Bryan said many people bought horses during the boom years and could no longer feed them or find a home for them. Photograph: Eric Luke

 


The Department of Agriculture needs to address the escalating problem of abandoned horses by introducing a proper disposal scheme for unwanted animals, the Irish Farmers’ Association said yesterday.

The abandonment of horses into State forests and on to derelict land has increased significantly since regulations governing the slaughter of horses tightened in the wake of the horse meat crisis. Horses are banned from the food chain if their passports have been stamped to say they received bute, a potentially harmful anti-inflammatory medication, but passport regulations were not tightly enforced by all before the scandal.

The problem is compounded by the fact new regulations were introduced in 2009 for the issuing of passports. If a horse was not registered before six months of age, its passport was automatically stamped to say it was not suitable for the food chain, in case it had received bute.

Knackeries charge between €120 and €180 to dispose of a horse, so some people are choosing to avoid the fee by abandoning the animals in forests and other State lands. The fodder crisis earlier this year has added to the crisis.

Some 24,000 horses were slaughtered for meat in Ireland last year but the figure this year has fallen to about 8,000.

IFA president John Bryan said many people bought horses during the boom years and could no longer feed them or find a home for them.

“We’re saying to the Department of Agriculture that there has to be a destruct system in place for those and a bit of assistance for the people who have those horses,” he said.

“We have spoken to the Farm Animal Welfare Council and the Minister for Agriculture and our understanding is that both the department and the Farm Animal Welfare Council would like to see some of these horses disposed of and some assistance for the people who have these horses that have no market value.”

Mr Bryan said he would support a proposal to allow horses into the food chain if they had a valid passport and no medication for six months, but only if there was elaborate testing to ensure that the horses had not received medication.

Both the ISPCA and the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have also expressed concern about the increase in the number of abandoned horses. The ISPCA recently described the problem as “astronomical” and said the numbers must be reduced before winter approaches.

Mr Bryan was speaking at the second day of the Discover Ireland Horse Show. He also urged Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to robustly defend the allocation for his department in the forthcoming budget.

“Since the recession started in 2008, agriculture has been singularly picked out for savage cuts,” he said.

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