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Horse Racing

TDs call for independent investigation into how horse racing industry calculates deaths

The multimillion-euro industry officially saw 111 deaths of race horses last year – but one TD says this is ‘effectively an understatement’ of the total figure.

DÁIL DEPUTIES HAVE called for an independent investigation into how the horseracing industry calculates deaths of its animals. 

TDs want to know whether the current official method, which only counts fatalities that have taken place within 48 hours of a horse running at a track, is appropriate.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who has submitted numerous queries about the industry to the Oireachtas in recent years, said there is “effectively an understatement of the number of deaths” as a result of how the industry counts the figures.

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan added her voice to the call, saying she wanted a “full investigation” into the issue.

Both TDs have campaigned on animal welfare issues during their time in the Dáil.

It follows an investigation by this website that looked at deaths in the multimillion-euro industry.

The IHRB defended the industry, stating that its takes horse welfare extremely seriously . It commissioned a “large-scale scientific analysis” in 2022 to better understand racecourse injuries.

It said this study is looking at each of Ireland’s 26 racecourses and the “associated risk factors” so it can mitigate the risk of injury in the future.

Industry sources who spoke to The Journal said that a high number of fatal injuries can be due to various factors.

These include how Ireland has more jump racing than flat racing, which has been found to be riskier.

Figures

The number of official racing-related deaths recorded by the industry was at 111 last year, but The Journal found that at least 130 more horses died within a month of racing.

It brought the final death toll to more than 240.

The total number of fatalities published by the IHRB has reached into triple figures every year for more than a decade.

The deaths are published by Horse Racing Ireland and detailed information about each animal’s racing record and ownership is carried in publicly accessible trade media.

Earlier this week, the industry regulator told The Journal that it’s in discussions with two racecourses over deaths at their tracks last year.

This includes a review into the deaths of seven horses in the space of a week at Listowel racecourse in Co Kerry last September.

Dublin South-West TD Murphy said an independent investigation is required to study the number of deaths which may be attributable to a race outside of the 48-hour timeframe.

“Horse racing is in receipt of significant public money . . . so there needs to be full transparency about the sport,” Murphy said.

TD reaction

Murphy, who has submitted numerous queries about the industry in the Dáil over recent years, told The Journal that he believes there is “effectively an understatement of the number of deaths” as a result of how the industry counts the figures.

He said an independent investigation is required to study the number of deaths which may be attributable to a race outside of the 48-hour timeframe.

Murphy pointed to how the industry, through HRI, was allocated €76 million in public funding by the government in the recent Budget.

“It wouldn’t be rational to trust any industry to self regulate. This isn’t just horse racing – it’s all industries. An independent investigation has a better chance of giving a truer reflection of what’s happening.”

Dublin Central TD Hourigan added her voice to the call for an independent investigation.

“The horse racing industry is in receipt of State funding and support above the level of almost any other sporting sector – it is entirely appropriate that the State ensure it has confidence at all levels that animal welfare is of the highest standard through a full investigation of this matter,” Hourigan said.

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