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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

Department suspends all operations at Ossory Meats horse abattoir

An inspection uncovered 25 irregularities with horse passports and microchips.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE DEPARTMENT OF Agriculture has suspended all operations at a county Offaly abattoir after an inspection found 25 “irregularities” relating to horse passports and microchips.

Minister Simon Coveney said he was concerned by the results of the investigation at Ossory Meats, adding that the findings were “totally unacceptable” and “deeply disturbing”.

On 8 March, officials from the department carried out identification checks on horses presented for slaughter at the Banagher plant, which had featured in BBC Northern Ireland’s recent Spotlight documentary into the illegal horsemeat trade.

A total of 25 horses were found to have irregularities in their passports or microchip identifiers. In some cases, while the microchip in the equine matched the passport, the marking on the horse and the passports were “very different”.

In other cases, horses were much older than they were presented as. These animals have all been humanely slaughtered and destroyed.

An investigation into the practices at the abattoir has already begun, Coveney confirmed. It will examine the roles played by the implicated Passport Issuing Agencies, the veterinarians whose signatures appear on the documentation, the registered owners and the traders who supplied the animals. The conduct and management oversight at Ossory Meats will also be probed.

The report into the wider horsemeat scandal, published by government today, described the incident as “quite extraordinary”, particularly given the “brazenness in attempting to have these animals slaughtered at a time when controls had been enhanced in the plant in question and also when the entire horsemeat saga was receiving such intense public scrutiny”.

The department said the “full rigours of the law will be deployed” where illegality is identified.

Until recently, the company had been subject to official controls provided by veterinary staff at Offaly County Council but powers were transferred to the department as the equine mislabelling investigation progressed.

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