A mandatory blood test could be the answer to saving the Galway County Council more than €200,000 per year and the State millions of euro in costs for the disposal of abandoned horses as well as improving the country’s reputation for safe food for export, that is according to Galway senator Fidelma Healy Eames.
The senator has this week proposed that a blood test, approved by the Department of Agriculture, carried out on the carcass would be a “sensible solution to a growing problem”.
“When the horse is slaughtered the carcass should be sampled and laboratory analysed by a Department vet as we did in the past during the BSE crisis with cattle. The cost of the sampling would be borne by the owner and on receipt of an ‘all clear result’ the owner should then be paid for his horse by the factory. If the animal is antibiotic free it is of value to the economy through our horse meat export industry.
“The huge increase in horse numbers in the country in the past few years, sees many families who bought horses in the boom with no longer the need or financial means to keep them. As it stands owners have to pay €70 to get a passport to sell a horse so the animal is identifiable. If the horse is over five months old the passport is automatically stamped ‘not fit for human consumption’. Where the horse is going for slaughter and ultimately export, this renders him valueless and the carcass is not accepted into the food chain. This is a missed opportunity,” said Senator Healy Eames.
There is currently a growing issue around the country with horses being left to roam or abandoned, a situation which not alone places immense pressure on animal welfare groups but is also an extra financial burden for local authorities.
A recent Galway County Joint Policing Committee was told that Galway County Council had spent €212,788 in just 10 months on seizing free roaming or abandoned horses. When the costs of staff and vet bill were taken into consideration the figure rose to more than €300,000. To dispose of just one horse can cost around €824. The sheer scale of the problem prompted county councillors to call for a national culling programme to be introduced. And Galway is not alone, as it is understood that it has cost councils throughout the country €2,704,630.88 in 2011 and €2,199,118.62 in 2012 to dispose of these animals.
“This measure will incentivise farmers/owners to pay for the animal passport and laboratory sampling. They will know if their horses were treated by antibiotics or bute,” says Senator Healy Eames, who added: