AROUND 1,000 horses were being legally slaughtered for meat each year at an abattoir in Northern Ireland until recently it has emerged.
It is understood that the abattoir was the only facility in the province where horses could be legally killed, and the meat sold on to other food markets outside of Britain and Ireland.
However the abattoir is understood to have ceased processing horses in recent weeks.
It’s understood that another five abattoirs in the Republic of Ireland slaughter horses for the meat market.
The Equine Council for Northern Ireland said they feared the lack of a legal slaughter facility here, could have serious implications for the welfare of the animals.
“It is also vital that Northern Ireland has a fully regulated and approved slaughter facility to ensure that horses do not have to be transported to the Republic of Ireland or to other parts of the UK with potential impacts in terms of equine welfare,” the council said.
“The cessation of such a facility will have an impact on equine welfare here and ECNI are continuing to monitor the situation on an on-going basis.
“In the region of 1,000 horses per annum were legally slaughtered in Northern Ireland but the facility has very recently ceased its equine operation.”
The Equine Council also hit out at what it termed were “misleading statistics” which were damaging the industry.
On Monday, the Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh told the House of Commons that 70,000 horses were unaccounted for in Northern Ireland, when in fact the figure referred to the island of Ireland.
“ECNI is also concerned by the level of inaccurate information being presented to the public on the equine sector in Northern Ireland.
“These misleading statistics and information on the industry are continuing to do damage and lead to poor perception of the Northern Ireland equine sector despite the fact that they have been corrected.”
The council said one of their major concerns was the issue of horse passports.
“We presented a set of recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in January on issues surrounding the equine industry in Northern Ireland.
“These recommendations included a call for a review of the passport and equine identification system which DARD agreed to at the meeting... we will be meeting with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development early next week to discuss these issues.”
The slaughter of horses in Ireland increased with the recession, with owners and breeders unable to afford to keep the animals. In 2011 9,790 horses were killed in the Republic, with almost half of these being thoroughbreds.