Irish Government officials have come out to deny they were aware “thousands” of horses, formerly trained in Ireland, were allegedly being sent for slaughter at abattoirs.
As per a BBC Panorama program, it was reported that most of the 4,000 horses slaughtered in British abattoirs had been moved from Ireland, with some covering over 350 miles by road with severe injuries.
It is highly illegal under Irish law, as well as European law to transport a horse in a manner that could possibly “cause it injury or undue suffering”.
The covert recording also showed serious breaches of slaughter plant regulations. Regulators – The Food Standards Agency, has said: “upholding animal welfare and the safety and authenticity of the food we eat is a top priority for the government” and have assured they will take necessary action against any evidence of animal mistreatment.
Some Irish government officials were made to appear before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on Tuesday for this reason.
The deputy chief veterinary officer, Agriculture department Michael Sheahan disclosed: “For me, probably, the most striking issue was around the whole area of horse slaughter.
“The footage from the abattoir in Swindon was probably the thing that struck home most with me.”
The footage shows dozens of horses shot by a slaughter staff who is standing few yards away, and they won’t be available for this weeks racing insight considering the current situation.
Mr. Sheahan told the committee on Tuesday that the method of animal slaughter is not used in the Republic of Ireland. He revealed he has been heavily involved in the slaughter of horses for 20 years, adding the number of racehorses slaughtered in Ireland varies depending on the year.
Currently, Ireland has two Government approved slaughter plants, with one officially closed following a fire outbreak at its premises.
He further stated: “I’m happy to say that we’re very satisfied with the way things operate in the slaughter plant here.
“They’re regulated in pretty much the same way as a beef slaughter plant or a sheep slaughter plant.
“We have a full-time official Department of Agriculture vet present at all times when the slaughter is taking place.”
He said, “The picture we are getting in recent times in Ireland is that we might be a horse-loving nation, and while there might be people in horse racing who do love horses, there’s seems to be a lot of people in the horse racing industry who don’t love horses,”
“They see them as machines and entities to be used for making money. It is hard for us to believe you are very surprised at what went on in the documentary last night.
“I think most people will feel that you had a fair idea for some time that this kind of thing is going on.”
Assistant secretary-general at the department, Dr. Kevin Smyth, said he had “no idea” what was going on.
“I categorically knew nothing about this until I saw what was on last night,” he added. “I had no inkling whatsoever.”