NEARLY 3,000 THROUGHBRED horses have been slaughtered for meat in Ireland since the start of 2020, new figures have been revealed.
It is the first time official data has been released showing the number of horses bred specifically for the racing industry that ended up in Irish meat factories.
A total of 1,549 Thoroughbreds with passports issued by horse racing conglomerate Weatherbys have been slaughtered in 2020, followed by another 1,105 in 2021. Some 305 have been slaughtered so far this year.
The figures were described as “quite horrifying” by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who received the data from the Agriculture Minister in response to a parliamentary question last week.
“It seems like horses are killed just because they’re not fast enough to win, and it’s cheaper to kill them than to keep them,” he said.
“This raises a new question about the tens of millions of euros of public money given to the horse racing industry every year.”
The government has provided over €1.46bn in funding to the industry under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act since 2001, and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) will receive a further €70m this year only.
Last year, a BBC Panorama documentary claimed injured Irish racehorses were being transported to slaughterhouses in the UK to be slaughtered under animal welfare guidelines.
He also alleged that contaminated horse meat was entering the human food chain as a result of the fraudulent exchange of microchips in animals intended for slaughter.
Consumption of horse meat has been increasing 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 mainland Europe, where they are usually eaten as burgers, steaks or roasts.
The new figures were provided to Deputy Murphy by Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, who noted that all the horses slaughtered had received passports from Weatherbys Ireland, but were not necessarily born in Ireland.
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The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine previously did not record separate data for thoroughbred horses in the statistics for equidae slaughtered in Irish meat plants.
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 awful. The horse racing industry views these animals as profit-making machines. If they wanted to, they could afford to keep them and take them out, but they’d rather kill them,” she said.