THE GROWING PROBLEM of unwanted horses should be tackled by the government introducing a scheme to provide financial assistance to horse owners, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has said.
She made her comments the same day that it emerged that over 50 horses – and three horse carcasses – were removed from a site in the Hollyhill area of Cork.
Senator Healy Eames also said that she has been looking into the cost of local authorities of disposing abandoned or badly treated animals. In 2011, the cost was €2,704,630.88, while it was €2,199,118.62 in 2012.
The Senator said that there has been a huge increase in horse numbers in the country in the past few years, and that “many families who bought horses in the boom no longer have the financial means to feed and groom them”.
As one farmer said to me ‘this is a huge issue, the country is flooded with horses. Everyone had a horse during the Celtic tiger’. As it stands owners have to pay €70 to get a passport to sell a horse so the animal is identifiable. If the horse is over five months old the passport is automatically stamped ‘not fit for human consumption’.
She said that because some horses who are destined for slaughter are ‘not fit for human consumption’ due to fears they were previously treated with antibiotics or bute, “the effect of this approach is that owners are abandoning and allowing their horses to become an animal welfare issue”.
Because it costs councils so much money to deal with the horses, Senator Healy Eames said that testing horse meat in meat factories “is the sensible solution to this growing problem”.
She said this would involve the horse carcass being sampled and laboratory analysed as was done during the BSE crisis with cattle.
The cost of the sampling should be borne by the owner and on receipt of an ‘all clear result’ the owner should then be paid for his animal by the factory. If the animal is antibiotic free then he is of value to the economy in the form of our horse meat export industry.
The Senator believes her proposed measure will incentivise farmers to pay for the animal passport and laboratory sampling “as there is a good chance the farmer/owner will get paid for his animal”.