Thousands of racehorses are slaughtered for human consumption in Ireland

Including hundreds of foals

Updated: 12.30 pm EST


THOROUGHBRED foals produced for the horseracing industry are being slaughtered for human consumption when they are less than one year old, new figures have revealed.

They were among more than 3,000 racehorses killed in Irish meat factories since 2020, according to information from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

New data containing the ages of thoroughbreds slaughtered in the past two-and-a-half years shows that 151 were just one year old, while another 288 were under three.

Four foals were slaughtered before reaching 12 months of age.

The average life expectancy of a racehorse is between 25 and 30 years.

However, the figures reveal that only 210 or seven percent of the thoroughbreds slaughtered were aged over 20 years.

More than half (1,534) were under six when they arrived at the meat factory, and nearly one in three (839) was younger than four years old.

The statistics relate to thoroughbreds that had passports issued by horseracing conglomerate Weatherbys, and do not include thousands of other equines slaughtered for human consumption during the same period.

Thoroughbred Foal. Getty Images.

Animal Aid, a rights group campaigning against horseracing, claims the large number of thoroughbreds ending up in meat factories is linked to “huge and unregulated overproduction” of equines in Ireland and the UK.

“The crux of the problem is that the racing industries have failed to limit the numbers of horses produced,” said Fiona Pereira, the group’s campaign manager.

“Quite simply, this wealthy industry is breeding horses in the hope of finding winners, whilst failing to look after many of those it doesn’t want.

“Tragically, the end of the road for a number of these poor souls is the abattoir and, until the government makes the racing industry accountable, it seems that many unwanted horses will suffer this fate.”

Consumption of horse meat has been growing globally since the 1990s.

Horse meat for human consumption in Irish butcher shop. Credit: Alamy.

Footage obtained by Animal Aid featured in a BBC Panorama documentary last year, which revealed that Irish racehorses 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 commonly served in China, Russia, Mexico, Argentina and Japan.

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

Asked why foals and young thoroughbreds would end up in meat factories, a spokesman for Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) explained that certain defects rendered horses unsuitable for racing.

“A small percentage of the foal crop which are bred to race are lost through the formative years – some with congenital abnormalities, some with conformational defects, some with difficult temperaments unsuitable for alternative careers,” he said.

The spokesman denied that overproduction was responsible for thoroughbreds ending up in meat factories.

“There is always uncertainty in outcome in breeding due to low heritability, but we don’t believe there is overproduction: the foal crop is approximately 9,000 per annum, well down on the peak at the turn of the century,” he said.

Featured Image: Irish Racehorse Closeup. Uncredited.

Tuesday’s Horse

Official Blog of The Fund for Horses

8 thoughts on “Thousands of racehorses are slaughtered for human consumption in Ireland”

  1. Only gender equality can smash this obscenely unacceptable and unethical business model, conceived of a toxic mix of extreme capitalism, neoliberalism and patriarchal values. Men who are so emotionally stunted that they cannot take the lives, pain, fears and desires of such beloved, gentle and obliging sentient beings as seriously as their own. “Modern thoroughbred breeding can be likened to a production line that spews put an ever increasing number of inherently weakened horses as a result of the incessant inbreeding that has occurred over time.” (Jane Allin, 2011 )


  2. Horse plus humane society in tennessee save horses from the slaughter pipe line going to Mexico and Canada as they can’t be slaughterd in USA ,they are on youtube ,they may help with advice and finance to save some .so sad


  3. Australia exports racehorses and the EU overlooks this food fraud because these horses contain vet drugs that are banned from entering the food chain in Europe.
    Ireland is the biggest producer of TBs per capita in the world, so they breed recklessly and then dispose of them cruelly. Remember how much your bet at the races is costing these horses.

    Liked by 2 people

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

    So, the EU turns a blind eye to the drug-laden horse carcasses coming from Ireland and the UK, just like they do with what comes from Canada and the US. Useless, fraudulent “passports”, and insufficient, ineffective testing.

    Nothing ever changes – money supersedes all else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why oh why is the eating of horse meat actually on the increase? How can people do it? People tell us that it is normal to eat meat, including horse meat and dog meat etc., and it is only because we are extremist vegans do we find it disgusting.

      Liked by 1 person

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