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Nearly 3,000 thoroughbred horses slaughtered for meat in Ireland since 2020

Some 305 such horses have been slaughtered to date this year.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

NEARLY 3,000 THOROUGHBRED horses were slaughtered for meat in Ireland since the beginning of 2020, new figures have revealed.

It is the first time that official data has been published showing the number of horses bred specifically for the racing industry that have ended up in Irish meat factories.

A total of 1,549 thoroughbreds with passports issued by horseracing conglomerate Weatherbys were slaughtered in 2020, followed by another 1,105 in 2021. Some 305 have been slaughtered to date this year.

The figures were described as “quite horrifying” by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who was provided with the data by the minister for agriculture in response to a parliamentary question last week.

“It seems like that the horses are being killed simply because they are not fast enough to win, and it is cheaper to kill them than to keep them,” he said.

“It raises a new question about the tens of millions of euro of public money given every year to the horse racing industry.”

The Government has provided funding of over €1.46 billion to the industry under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act since 2001, and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) will receive a further €70 million this year alone.

Last year, a BBC Panorama documentary claimed that injured Irish race horses were being transported to abattoirs in the UK for slaughter against animal welfare guidelines.

It also alleged that contaminated horse meat was entering the human food chain as a result of microchips being fraudulently swapped in animals that were earmarked for slaughter.

Consumption of horse meat has been growing globally since the 1990s. It is considered a delicacy in parts of Italy, Holland, Switzerland and Belgium, and is also commonly served in China, Russia, Central Asia, Mexico, Argentina and Japan.

Most Irish horse carcasses are exported to continental Europe, where they are typically eaten as burgers, steaks or roasts.

The new figures were provided to Deputy Murphy by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, who noted that all of the slaughtered horses had been issued with passports from Weatherbys Ireland, but were not necessarily born in Ireland.

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The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine previously did not record separate data for thoroughbred horses in statistics relating to equines slaughtered in Irish meat factories.

HRI did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the National Animal Rights Association (NARA) said the statistics were “absolutely sickening”.

“It’s absolutely horrific. The horse racing industry just look at these animals as profit-making machines. If they wanted to, they could afford to keep and retire them, but they prefer to kill them,” she said.

About the author:

Darragh McDonagh

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