HORSE Racing Ireland has begun an investigation into allegations made in Monday night's Panorama programme on BBC concerning the mistreatment of retired racehorses.
The programme focused on a British abattoir in which a number of thoroughbreds were filmed being slaughtered in conditions which breached regulations.
Some of the former racehorses featured were said to have travelled from Ireland, possibly while unsound, and one horse inexplicably was found to have a microchip taken from another racehorse who had died several years earlier.
On Tuesday afternoon HRI said it was adding its support to calls for an investigation by the relevant British authorities into the operation of F Drury & Sons abattoir in Swindon.
HRI has also contacted An Garda Siochana about the apparent microchip fraud “and has sought the assistance of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in respect of allegations in the programme regarding the transport of horses from Ireland to Swindon in 2019/2020.”
The BBC programme was also discussed at Tuesday morning’s all-party Oireachtas Agriculture Committee. A senior Department of Agriculture official told TDs and senators that there was only one approved equine slaughter plant in Ireland and that he was “very satisfied at how things operate” there, with horses slaughtered humanely in the presence of a Department veterinary surgeon.
The official also noted that, since the expiry of the Tripartite Agreement on January 1st this year, it is no longer possible to transport horses between Ireland and Britain without rigorous health checks.
HRI had equine welfare discussions on Tuesday with the Department of Agriculture, the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association as well as the British Horseracing Authority.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “The images we saw last night were abhorrent to all within Irish racing and in no way reflect the care and attention given to the overwhelming majority of horses in Ireland. Our people and our horses are our greatest strength, and it was sickening to see the fate which befell some horses on last night’s programme.
“We support the British Horseracing Authority’s calls for an investigation into whether there has been a departure from approved UK abattoir practices at Drury and Sons and will support such an investigation in any way we can. Likewise, we will work with the Department of Agriculture in relation to transport arrangements for horses between Ireland and England.”
In December 2019 HRI appointed John Osborne as its director of equine welfare and bloodstock. Since then, a series of initiatives have been undertaken. They include the establishment of the Irish Thoroughbred Welfare Council.
Osborne commented: “Ireland is home to 2,500 thoroughbred farms on which live over 30,000 thoroughbreds. Whether at the top level of creating a vibrant industry in which so many thousands of people devote their lives down to the last detail of improving the day-to-day routine for the horses, the horse is ensured the highest standards of care.Everyone in the industry knows that nothing less than the best will do.”
MORE ON THIS STORY IN THE IRISH FIELD NEXT WEEKEND