Horse News

Ireland Sends Mixed Signals on Alleged Abandoned Horse Issue

Story by digital journalist Kim I. Hartman ~ Live Link

At First Look Horses Can’t Catch a Break Anywhere

Dublin – Ireland faces some tough decisions over the plight of the horses that people can no longer afford to keep. They’re the four-legged victims of the Irish recession whose plight animal welfare organisations say can only be solved by a mass national cull.
Thousands of homeless horses now run wild across Ireland – another consequence of the economic recession as the animals are abandoned by owners who can no longer afford their upkeep.
Animal welfare organizations such as the Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals say the problem can only be solved by a mass national cull, reports Irish Central.
Ted O’Connor, inspector with the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) said they were picking up as many horses as dogs. “People just can’t afford to keep them [horses] anymore, even hunters now and nice horses. They are leaving them in fields or waste ground,” said the Irish Times.
The chief officer for the Kerry Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Harry McDaid, told IT, it was receiving daily reports of abandoned and underfed horses and ponies.
A small number of prosecutions were likely, but talks were also taking place with horse owners on how to improve their treatment of the animals. Some owners cannot afford to buy expensive animal feed. The current cold spell is also a factor.
Spiegel Online reports that more than 20,000 abandoned horses are roaming the country. They even include thoroughbreds that until recently were still being trained for racing. Many horses have been passed onto people who lack the ability, space and financial resources to take proper care of them. Scores of them are now grazing on pastures and are likely to die of hunger this winter, said Ireland’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).
The ISPCA has hundreds of horses in need of re-homing, with new calls coming in daily of horses at risk. A check of most of the nearly thirty ISPCA Member Society website page links found hundreds of abandoned horse waiting for adoption or facing dire consequences some are referring to as ‘solutions’.
One of the solutions to end the plight of the starving and abandoned horses is a mass cull, involving a once-off amnesty whereby the State would absorb the cost of humanely destroying unwanted animals. As draconian as it sounds, to put a horse down in such a way is better than making it endure a slow death by starvation, according to French Horse and Country Magazine (FHC).
Fine Gael’s agriculture spokesman Andrew Doyle is adamant that a cull is needed to take horses out of the system. “There should be some sort of incentive for people to bring unwanted horses forward rather than being prosecuted later for cruelty,” he says.
Another option being considered as a solution would be to look for a derogation from the regulations on horses going into the food chain to permit animals without passports to go the meat-factory route.
“If you do a cull for a year or so, the problem is dealt with and you won’t have to do it again, Doyle told FHC. “It’s in our face now – we’ve a whole load of unwanted animals that no one wants to know about and if we don’t so something quickly the outcome won’t be good.”
Ireland’s Department of Agriculture acknowledges the current welfare problem but its view on a cull is that it’s “not an appropriate approach as such an initiative would not necessarily result in the slaughter of the target population – ie, those horses that are most vulnerable”.
The department has approved five meat plants around the country for horse slaughter, but these facilities can only take animals with clean passports so they can join the food chain. The average horse starving on a bog or a housing estate is not the type of animal that has a passport, said FHC.
If something isn’t done soon, the plight of the homeless horses, suffering through the current economic struggle, is going to get worse once the winter weather hits full-on in the country of Ireland.

17 replies »

  1. Ireland has a tremendous opportunity to set a precedent for other nations if it chooses to humanely euthanize the animals. There is no reason Irish vets can’t ban together to create a euthanasia clinc for these horses.


  2. I apoologize, my computer keys were sticking in my previous post….

    I have always found it odd that Irish and UK rescue groups seem OK with the idea of slaughter, which is as heinous in Europe as it is here. Quite frankly, I’m disgusted and livid at these so-called European “horse welfare” charities that support the idea of slaughter either because they’ve spooked themselves with worst-case scenario horror stories of what might happen if slaughter is banned, or because they’re too dim witted to come up with more acceptable and efficient solutions.

    As far as finding a loophole in the passport regulations, I’ve always had my doubts about how well the EU passport system works as far as horse protection is concerned. Every so often, you hear of stolen horses being slaughtered with fake passports. Also, slaughterhouses seem to be immune from any extremely harsh penalties for violating those laws.

    I could go on all day about this, but I’ll spare you guys….


  3. Unfortunately the situation is very nasty in Europe, not in Ireland only, althought not on such a large scale.
    More horses than ever are being mistreated at horsemarkets where they are dumped because people can’t look after them anylonger because of the economical crisis.
    Kill buyers are buying left right and centre to send them on transport to a.o. Italy for slaughter!!!.
    Breeders should be regulated by law. The surplus of horses are paying the ultimate price.


  4. I think the statement that a cull that is done now would eliminate the problem is ignorant. The problem would only come up again as soon as times improve and people start breeding more horses.
    People have short memories, just like the gasoline shortage in this country. As soon as gasoline prices went down and it became easier to get, they started buying big gas guzzlers again.
    There is never a “one time” cull, it will rear it’s ugly head again. They should offer low cost or free euthanization for animals that are in poor health or very aged but they need to concentrate on the over breeding problem in their country and we should do that also.


  5. The parallel here with dogs and cats here and abroad is clear. Inadvertent and planned over breedings have created an untenable and brutal scenario for pet animals. And that’s what horses are too like it or not. Very few horses are used as “cow ponies” or farm/drive functionally as they once did. Equines are marketed with all the Hallmark connotations that dogs and cats are and treated as such especially for kids. Breeding has got to grind to a halt. NOW. Even if the markets “improve”, a sustainable future on this glove is not about producing more and more and more of anything.


  6. Having spent time in Ireland in 2005 and 2008 I must say that the areas I know, Clare and Galway, had many more horses in 2008 than in ’05. I was very surprised . The internal economy has been tough for the past 8 to 10 years, actually… but getting much worse the past 3. The Irish are like us, and we are like them. I knew that there had been a call for more slaughter. I read the Irish Times fairly often. But this is getting to be a sad chapter from the end of the little golden Age of Ireland that brought people home to the Isle in the 90s when the EU membership brought an economic boom the like of which people had never seen before. It was short lived. The love of the Irish for their horses has, like us, been over expressed in breeding. I do hope that this will be worked out but it sounds bad for many horses. This is sad news indeed. mar


    • From article linked above;
      “What’s happening here is endangering our reputation as a horse nation.”

      At an auction at the end of September, rich foreigners were still paying up to €300,000 ($405,000) for top-quality thoroughbreds. But for the overwhelming majority of second-class and third-class horses, the market has collapsed. Owners lack the financial resources to feed them and for many there is only one solution, according to a study by University College Dublin — they should be “humanely destroyed.”

      The country is even discussing setting up a national horse culling program, and an amnesty for all overstretched horse owners who blatantly breach animal protection laws. Owners of unwanted horses might be able to surrender them for disposal at no cost to themselves, says the author of the UCD study, Joe Collins, a vet. No decision has been taken yet. “But it is evident that something must be done soon,” he says.

      Only the Best-Fed Horses Are Slaughtered

      A horse slaughterhouse in Kilkenny processed more than 3,000 horses last year, five times more than in 2005. Most of the horse steaks are exported to France.

      But only well-nourished horses whose health has been comprehensively logged are allowed to be slaughtered. One wrong drug and the meat is labelled as unsellable. Contrary to EU rules, most Irish horses don’t carry implanted microchips containing their most important data. So their remains can’t even be processed into dog food. The absence of microchips also makes it impossible to track where an abandoned horse came from. That makes it tempting for troubled owners just to dump their horses by the roadside because it would cost €300 to have the animal put down and disposed of by a vet.


      • The cold weather has brought up to 10 inches of snow to parts of Ireland. This sounds like last winter which was also colder and they had ice and snow. This is very bad for the pastured horses. I do hope the Irish people will attempt to do the least harm to the horses and let them live and be enjoyed by the public. They do see themselves as a ‘Horse Nation’ and this carries responsibility. May they live up to it. mar


  7. “…the State would absorb the cost of humanely destroying unwanted animals.”
    Why can’t the state “absorb” the cost of feeding these horses (at the owners’ home) rather than pay to have them destroyed? Seems like it would be cheaper in the long run, not spending money to round them up, transport them and then kill them? Why not put the cost of euthanasia €300 ($397) towards feed, etc? BEFORE they even start contemplating killing them?
    PS Why do people always seem to wait until animals are malnourished or near death to address these problems? Why are people not more proactive? sorry duh…


  8. I agree with K.A. above. Even in this country, there are too many horses being breed for the hope of getting another “Zenhatta”. THis should also be stopped. The horses should not be paying the price of humans not using their brains and their hearts. This is a world wide situation now that must be looked at in all countries. TO FEED AND PROTECT is better than slaughter.


  9. Worse than being ‘humanely’ slaughtered in Ireland is being loaded onto triple decker lorries and transported for 3 days with no stops in ALL weathers to be brutally slaughtered in Southern Europe.

    At least they are spared THAT horror; let’s be thankful for small mercies.


  10. Why does it seem so unreasonable to many to ask breeders to stop breeding? If they did that for a year, the problems would be solved. I know its unrealistic, but we need to jump on the bandwagon of STOP THE BREEDING, just like the campaign against puppymills. It is not unreasonable at this time to try to obtain regulations against breeding. When do we say, enough is enough, its time to stop creating problems?


  11. instead of culling them why dont we put the money into a national park like herds of deer are kept in? and just control the breeding


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