EU law complicates any Irish move to ban sending of thoroughbred horses to abattoirs

British Horseracing Authority announced that racehorses are to be taken out of human food chain

Ireland’s racing authorities don’t believe they are in a position to replicate the step taken in Britain which rules out thoroughbreds there being sent to abattoirs.

The British Horseracing Authority announced on Thursday that horses trained and entered for races in Britain must be signed out of the human food chain in their passports from January 1, 2022.

It will effectively end the slaughter of racehorses trained in Britain for their meat.

That change to the rules of racing comes on the back of a controversial BBC Panorama programme earlier this year which reported that more than 4,000 thoroughbreds had been slaughtered in abattoirs in Britain and Ireland since the start of 2019.


The move is designed to ensure racehorses that have to be put down are at home or in suitable surroundings when it occurs and the transport of animals to an abattoir to be sold for consumption will no longer be classed as euthanasia in Britain.

The BHA has said it is in contact with other racing bodies to see how such a rule could be implemented to include international runners.

Horse Racing Ireland is examining the issue but European Union law could prove a stumbling block.

"As of the first week in July, the EU clarified their rules and regulations, basically stating that in EU law horses are food animals," said HRI's director of equine welfare and bloodstock, John Osborne, on Friday

“That complicates things for us and we’re probably not in a position to reciprocate as things stand at the moment. We’re looking at it but under EU law horses are food animals first and foremost so it’s complicated.

There is a significant trade in horse meat on the continent and while the numbers of horses being sent to abattoirs in Ireland is declining it is a standardised and regulated sector here.

The Panorama programme showed disturbing scenes of animals being slaughtered at an abattoir in Swindon which prompted widespread criticism of the methods used there.

There also appears to be a widespread view within racing in this country that the BHA move simply displaces the problem rather than solving it.