RTÉ Investigation exposes systemic abuse of innocent horses

Posted on the 13th June 2024

An undercover investigation by RTÉ into the contemptible world of horse trading
highlighted blatant cruelty towards horses, unrestrained greed, fraudulent practices of changing horses’ identifications and illegal transportation of the animals across Europe via the UK – the outcome being the mass slaughtering of horses. During the 75-minute programme broadcast last night (12 June) distressing scenes of the verbal and physical abuse of horses and their obvious suffering made for grim viewing.

The crux of the programme was a focus on horses ending their lives, often young lives, in appalling conditions in the lead up to and the process of slaughter. Specifically highlighted was a damning criticism of Shannonside Foods Ltd, Ireland’s sole equine slaughterhouse.

Animals facing imminent death are at their most vulnerable. It would be expected that during these moments, they would be shown compassion. The programme showed, as did Animal Aid’s earlier footage from a horse abattoir, that this was not the case. Horses about to be killed were punched, hit and shouted at – only adding to their bewilderment and terror. This appalling cruelty, leading to unimaginable suffering for the horses, is unforgivable.

Featured in the programme was the work of Animal Aid. Our covert slaughter footage from 2020 was shown as an example to highlight illegal malpractice that horses were subjected to.

Animal Aid's undercover investigation into horse slaughter

From this RTÉ article:

“RTÉ Investigates also analysed data which allowed, for the first time, the profiling of horses that were sent for slaughter in Ireland. Journalists examined 2,400 horses slaughtered at Shannonside Foods Ltd between 1 January 2023 and 1 March 2024. The data revealed 71% were thoroughbreds and had been bred for the racing industry, with the rest bred as sport or leisure horses. Of those bred for racing it was possible to establish that more that 400 had racing careers. The horses slaughtered in the Straffan slaughterhouse during the period had together raced more than 3,000 times and earned their owners more than €1.5m on tracks across Ireland, the UK and France. Some had arrived in the slaughterhouse having recently left the yards of some prestigious owners and trainers. The slaughtered horses ranged in age from six months to 31 years old. The average age of the thoroughbreds slaughtered during the period was eight years and six months. Some were killed just days after their last race.”

Says Animal Aid’s Horse Consultant, Dene Stansall:

‘The RTÉ exposé showed the ruthless, money driven, brutality of people within the horse industry (including the wealthy racing industry) towards innocent horses. A blatant lack of respect for the animals, poor government control to protect them and an outdated passport and monitoring system, that leaves thousands of horses vulnerable to suffering and abuse, falls at the door of the Irish Government’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is failing horses on a huge scale, ignorant of animal suffering and illegal deception on such a magnitude that it crosses the international boundaries of Europe. The RTÉ  programme will hit the corridors of power in the hope of change. Animal Aid will push for progress on this.’

Notes to Editors

  • For more information, contact Dene Stansall on 07780 756957
  • Slaughter figures for Ireland can be seen here
  • View Animal Aid’s horse slaughter investigation here

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