25 March 2011

Irish horses being slaughtered

A downturn in the economy is necessitating widespread slaughter of thoroughbreds and other horses.  The BBC explains -
To keep up with this new demand, thoroughbreds - a breed of horse used specifically for racing - were being produced at an unprecedented rate: between 2000 and 2007, the number of registered foals increased from 8,793 to 12,633.

But these horses are expensive, costing approximately 17,000 euros (£15,000) a year to keep. And when Ireland plunged into one of the deepest recessions to hit the eurozone, they became a luxury very few could afford.

Mr Hogan, who is based in Nenagh, County Tipperary, explains: "Quite a lot of those horses would have been owned by syndicates - basically blocklayers, carpenters, electricians - people involved in the big property boom. And they just disappeared overnight."..

And abattoirs, where horses are slaughtered for their meat for human consumption, have become a growth industry. In 2008, there was just one in the Republic of Ireland, but today there are five. Last year, 9,790 horses were killed in them. Of these, the BBC has learnt that 4,618 were thoroughbreds.

But this is not the whole picture. Figures are not available for the number of horses that have ended up in Ireland's 40 registered knacker's yards...

But racehorses are the tip of a much larger equine welfare problem in Ireland. At the ISPCA's animal rescue centre in Keenagh, County Longford, they are struggling to cope with the numbers of horses they have had to take in. "We're seeing every shape and size, from little ponies right up to cobs and draught horses," says Conor Dowling, the ISPCA's chief inspector. "So far this year, our inspectors have taken in nearly as many equines as we did in the entire year of 2010." 
Photo credit.

"And abattoirs, where horses are slaughtered for their meat for human consumption..." I presume this means the horse meat is shipped to other countries where it is consumed by humans.  I think this may be a topic for a separate post in the future.


  1. Very sad. Not just horses being abandoned either - the pet shelters are full.

    We don't eat horse meat, so it must all go to the continent.

  2. I don't know what's wrong with eating horse meat since I never, to my knowledge, have done so. I expect that it would be perfectly edible, although it might require some special preparation if it's tough or strong tasting. Probably a lot better than kangaroo anyway.

  3. We do eat horse meat in France, I didn't know it wasn't the case elsewhere.

    Also, I'd like to point out that these horses don't face euthanasia, but slaughtering. Euthanasia is supposed to relieve pain. This is kind of a sensible subject so I'd rather people made the distinction ;)

  4. Anon, I think you're right re the terminology; I've modified the post accordingly.

  5. I'm surprised by how squeamish most North Americans are about eating horse meat. Having spent many years in Europe, I can tell you firsthand that it is delicious - very lean and not at all gamy.

  6. Here in South Florida there was a spate of horse slaughtering, but the horses being killed were not abandoned or killed by their owners, but by thieves who sold the meat on the black market. I live in the town of Davie, which has a cowboy history and many people still own horses. Some of these folks were patroling their paddocks and barns with guns.

    The police caught some of the people responsible but I'm not sure if they have gone to trial yet. I believe they will be charged with grand theft, but I'm not sure if they will be charged with violating any animal cruelty laws. The thieves would bring down the horses in the pasture, take what meat they wanted and leave the rest to rot in the field.

    I'm not sure if horse meat is legal in the state of Florida, but I'm sure that the method of procuring the meat met no state statutes for health and sanitation.

    I know it's a cultural thing for me, but I have to admit I was secretly hoping one of those thieves would meet up with an armed, enraged horse owner. I'm not yet evolved, evidently.

  7. It's an issue in America, too. There are no equine slaughterhouses inside America - but there are in Canada and Mexico. So low-value horses get shipped hundreds of miles(usually in double-decker trailers designed for cows, severe injuries and deaths on the trailers are common)and often wind up in very, very nasty examples of slaughter facilities. Here's a good article that lays out the situation as of 2008: http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/jan08/080115a.asp It's only gotten worse since then.

    There's a very strong movement among American horse owners trying to get this situation changed. Some of it is people repulsed by the idea of eating an animal we consider a pet, but most of it is because of the extremely inhumane conditions. Hopefully the situation in Ireland is different, they seem to have a stronger tradition of small scale, local butchers.

    The other concern is that horse meat shipped to Europe and Japan is usually sold as 'American Mustang meat, 100% natural'. That's not true - it's all coming from former racehorses or showhorses, the vast majority of which have been medicated with substances that make it unsuitable for human consumption. (The most common example is bute, which is aspirin for horses, but toxic to humans.) I'd stay away from horse meat for that reason alone.

  8. Some interesting insights; I hadn't thought about the phenylbutazone aspect. Thanks, Mel.

  9. Related : The Rubberbandits created some controversy in Ireland with their video where the protagonist uses a horse as an actual mode of transportation, presumably because he is too broke to afford a car. Strangely enough it is best explained here by cracked.com (you will have to scroll down a bit to see #1).

  10. Horsemeat is common (Hrossakjöt) in Iceland, but they are Icelandic Horses, akin to Shetland Ponies. Horses and Sheep are beloved by the people of Iceland, but they enjoy eating them as well.

  11. Why's it ok to slaughter cows, but wrong for horses? I never understood that. They're both ungulates that live in herds with a harem-style male dominance. If you eat beef I don't see why you'd have a problem with this.

    I've never had horse. I'd probably try it if it was done as a burger.

  12. I couldn't eat horsemeat because the horse has a special relationship with humans. That's one difference between horses and cattle. Intelligence is another. But the awful conditions these horses are subjected to should shock even people who eat horsemeat.

  13. The "special relationship" thing is something I don't understand. I live in an area with a good number of small farms. I've known several people with "pet" cows, bottle fed, that would follow them like dogs around the farm. I've personally known cows that were very sweet and enjoyed human company. Will I still eat beef occasionally? Yes.

    If intelligence is an issue then there's even less justification for eating pork. Pigs are fairly intelligent, more than horses by most estimations.

    I really don't think either is a good reason. Neither is beauty, since few farm animals can compare to a jersey calf. It comes down to taboos.

    As far as I'm concerned there's an amount of unpleasantness in eating any animal. I don't see huge distinctions from one ungulate to another. They're "meant" to be prey.

  14. I guess I'm going to be one of the sole voices of dissentation, but I would not consider eatting horsemeat. I've worked amongst horses, rode them and cared for them; I find them to be somewhat different. I guess it's something I am effected by, being someone who grew up horse-crazy, learning to ride, being around horses, living in what some might consider "horse country".

    Of course, I have to add, to the people considering on eatting horse meat, would you consider eatting dog meat or whale meat to offensive, even though in many parts of the world, it's consider a part of traditional cusine or no different than eatting chicken or beef in the U.S.
    Here's an article on dog meat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_meat

    Here's another on lists of animals consumed by humans (also note that primates, including humans are on there): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_meat_animals

  15. Eat meat that tastes good when prepared correctly. Bottom line. Squirrel, hamster, dog, horse, cow, whatever.

    Making distinctions is like drawing a line in water.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...