THE abattoir at the centre of the RTÉ Investigates programme aired on Wednesday night is currently subject to a legal notice from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) until they are satisfied with traceability.

Shannonside Foods were issued with a notice revoking their approval for the slaughter of equine by the Minister of Agriculture on Friday, June 14th. The revocation of the food business approval means that Shannonside Foods must immediately cease operating as an equine slaughter food business.

Viewers were left shocked during the programme when scenes from the abattoir in Straffan, Co Kildare, showed obvious signs of alleged illegal tampering of the identity of horses, as well as extreme cases of animal cruelty. There were widespread calls for the plant to be shut down immediately and the individuals at the centre of the alleged crimes to be held accountable.

Irish Horse World asked the Department if the abattoir is still open for business. In response on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson said: “The Department has already commenced an investigation into these matters with the support of An Garda Síochána to ensure that there are appropriate consequences for those responsible.

“Whilst we cannot comment in detail on the investigation, the Department can confirm that no animals have entered the food chain from this slaughter plant in the past three weeks. The slaughter plant is currently subject to a legal notice from the Department, detaining all carcasses that were presented for slaughter last week, until the Department is satisfied regarding their traceability.”

False identities

At the centre of the controversy was one of the Animal Welfare Officers of the plant, Arann Fitzpatrick, son of owner John Joe Fitzpatrick, who was covertly recorded allegedly inserting false identification microchips into horses and using spray paint to change the colour markings on horses, as well as visibly striking horses with large objects.

These actions all happened in the lairage of the plant, before the horses were moved to the kill house, where Department officials were overseeing operations.

When asked about the passporting and traceability system being flawed, the spokesperson added: “The Department has made a number of significant improvements to our equine traceability system over the past number of years. We are committed to building on the actions already taken and continuing to strengthen the traceability of our horses and ensure the highest standards of equine welfare.”

Despite being questioned on the effectivenesss of the equine census, the Department insists that 76% of equine keepers with a registered equine premises completed the census. However, the spokesperson added that “a collective effort across the European Union, among Member States and the Commission, is required to further improve the traceability system”.


In a statement, the Irish Horse Board said they are ready to assist to protect the reputation of the Irish horse industry.

“We are appalled by the criminal activity and animal abuse outlined in the RTÉ Investigates programme. Ireland is world-renowned for its affinity with the horse and its exceptional breeding, production and care of horses in all disciplines. The reputational damage caused by a number of individuals acting in such a despicable manner cannot be tolerated and the IHB call on the appropriate authorities to ensure that the full rigours of the law are enforced and action is taken against those involved.

“There needs to be a closer examination of all the processes involved and of those who are responsible for ensuring that the correct procedures are followed. We urge the authorities to ensure that a humane and monitored end of life solution is put in place, on this island of Ireland, to ensure that all equines receive the appropriate level of care that they deserve at this final stage.

“A thorough fast-tracked review of the implementation of EU legislation and an audit of its implementation across Europe is required, to identify the current weaknesses and address them. Separate bilateral agreements with Ireland and the UK authorities are urgently required to establish an all-island solution for Irish horse owners.

“The Irish Horse Board officials, under their DAFM remit, are ready to assist in all aspects of the steps required, to protect the reputation of the Irish horse industry for all those breeders and producers acting with total integrity.”

Horse Sport Ireland also came out to condemn the practices seen in the programme. “There is absolutely no place in society for the mistreatment of horses, or any other animals, nor is there for the use of animals for any criminal intent. Horse Sport Ireland welcomes a full investigation into the deeply troubling issues highlighted by the programme, and will offer its full assistance to any such investigation,” a statement read.

My Lovely Horse Rescue are staging a stand out on Saturday morning at 11am outside Shannonside Foods in a bid to have the abattoir shut down.