Department of Agriculture officials comment on BBC documentary at Dáil committee
by HARRY MCGEE | Irish Times | 21 hrs ago
The alleged inhumane practices surrounding the slaughter of horses in the UK – including many hundreds of Irish racehorses – contained in a BBC documentary would never happen in Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said.
BBC Panorama disclosed that thousands of racehorses are being sent to slaughter in Ireland and the UK. Secret video recording from an abattoir in Swindon showed animals were being killed in an apparently cruel way with slaughtermen shooting animals together, and from distance, and injured animals being apparently transported hundreds of miles.
Michael Sheahan, the deputy chief veterinary officer of the Department, told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that horses slaughtered in Ireland are dealt with in the same way as cattle.
“The single most surprising thing [in the documentary] was the method of slaughter,” he said.
“We appear to see horses being led into a room or antechamber and appear to see a slaughterman with a rifle. In some cases it appears he was taking a shot at the horse from a distance.”
He said nothing like that would be allowed in Ireland. “There is no question we would allow a horse to wander around a room and then be held by an individual and then shot by another,” he said.
He said what happens in an Irish abattoir is that the horses are sent to a restraining box, are properly restrained and are then stunned and then killed.
“They operate to the exact same standards as a beef slaughter plant,” he said, saying there was always a Department of Agriculture veterinary surgeon present.
Mr Sheahan said only one slaughter plant for horses was licensed in Ireland: “I am happy to say we are satisfied with the way things operate in the slaughter plant.”
He did accept that the system for tracing the movement of horses was “nowhere near as good” as it was in the cattle sector.
He said traceability of cattle in Ireland was among the best in the world. “We have a Rolls Royce system for cattle,” he said, saying it had taken 50 years to develop.
He said traceability for horses had improved considerably and that there was now microchipping. In addition, 27,000 premises where horses were kept had now been registered, the committee was told.
Mr Sheahan said there were still several pieces of the jigsaw to be completed in terms of tracing, the main one being an equine census.
Mr Sheahan said the transport of an injured animal across long distances as was shown in the documentary was illegal. “That is unequivocal,” he said.
He also pointed out the system for moving horses to and from the UK had changed since Brexit. Before January horses could be easily moved without the need for checks but that had changed since then.
Committee members, including chairman Jackie Cahill (Fianna Fáil), expressed repulsion and horror at some of the practices disclosed in the BBC film. Mr Cahill told the committee it had been difficult to watch and said the committee would return to investigate the issue specifically at a later date.
Joe Flaherty (Fiann Fáil) ssid the programme made for “harrowing viewing” and said there was an issue with traceability of horses in Ireland.
“We are a horse-loving nation and greatly pride ourselves on our reputation as an equine nation
See also Thousands of Irish trained horses slaughtered in UK abattoirs, programme says, Irish Times, 19 July 2021
and Majority of 4,000 slaughtered ex-racehorses were trained in Ireland, BBC Panorama reveals, Independent.ie, 21 July 2021
Tuesday’s Horse © Fund for Horses