Thousands of horses face mass cull as recession hits Irish owners

Posted Nov 28, 2010 by Kim I. Hartman
Ireland faces some tough decisions over the plight of the horses that people can no longer afford to keep. They're the four-legged victims of the Irish recession whose plight animal welfare organisations say can only be solved by a mass national cull.
Bureau of Land Management
Thousands of homeless horses now run wild across Ireland - another consequence of the economic recession as the animals are abandoned by owners who can no longer afford their upkeep.
Animal welfare organizations such as the Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals say the problem can only be solved by a mass national cull, reports Irish Central.
Ted O’Connor, inspector with the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) said they were picking up as many horses as dogs. “People just can’t afford to keep them [horses] anymore, even hunters now and nice horses. They are leaving them in fields or waste ground,” said the Irish Times.
The chief officer for the Kerry Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Harry McDaid, told IT, it was receiving daily reports of abandoned and underfed horses and ponies.
A small number of prosecutions were likely, but talks were also taking place with horse owners on how to improve their treatment of the animals. Some owners cannot afford to buy expensive animal feed. The current cold spell is also a factor.
Spiegel Online reports that more than 20,000 abandoned horses are roaming the country. They even include thoroughbreds that until recently were still being trained for racing. Many horses have been passed onto people who lack the ability, space and financial resources to take proper care of them. Scores of them are now grazing on pastures and are likely to die of hunger this winter, said Ireland's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).
The ISPCA has hundreds of horses in need of re-homing, with new calls coming in daily of horses at risk. A check of most of the nearly thirty ISPCA Member Society website page links found hundreds of abandoned horse waiting for adoption or facing dire consequences some are referring to as 'solutions'.
One of the solutions to end the plight of the starving and abandoned horses is a mass cull, involving a once-off amnesty whereby the State would absorb the cost of humanely destroying unwanted animals. As draconian as it sounds, to put a horse down in such a way is better than making it endure a slow death by starvation, according to French Horse and Country Magazine (FHC).
Fine Gael’s agriculture spokesman Andrew Doyle is adamant that a cull is needed to take horses out of the system. “There should be some sort of incentive for people to bring unwanted horses forward rather than being prosecuted later for cruelty,” he says.
Another option being considered as a solution would be to look for a derogation from the regulations on horses going into the food chain to permit animals without passports to go the meat-factory route.
“If you do a cull for a year or so, the problem is dealt with and you won’t have to do it again, Doyle told FHC. “It’s in our face now – we’ve a whole load of unwanted animals that no one wants to know about and if we don’t so something quickly the outcome won’t be good.”
Ireland's Department of Agriculture acknowledges the current welfare problem but its view on a cull is that it’s “not an appropriate approach as such an initiative would not necessarily result in the slaughter of the target population – ie, those horses that are most vulnerable”.
The department has approved five meat plants around the country for horse slaughter, but these facilities can only take animals with clean passports so they can join the food chain. The average horse starving on a bog or a housing estate is not the type of animal that has a passport, said FHC.
If something isn't done soon, the plight of the homeless horses, suffering through the current economic struggle, is going to get worse once the winter weather hits full-on in the country of Ireland.