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HRI issue statement in relation to RTE Investigates programme

Suzanne Eade - CEO of Horse Racing Ireland Suzanne Eade - CEO of Horse Racing Ireland
© Photo Healy Racing

The Board, management and staff of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) are deeply shocked and appalled by the content of the RTÉ Investigates documentary broadcast on RTÉ 1 tonight (Wednesday).

The criminal behaviour depicted in the RTÉ documentary is disgusting and is not the experience of the vast majority of the 30,000 people who make their livelihood in the horse racing and breeding industry in Ireland.

HRI has zero tolerance for mistreatment of horses in any circumstance and criminal and regulatory sanction must be imposed on anyone found to have behaved in an illegal way towards horses.

Equine safety and care is HRI's top priority, and this year HRI will invest E16.1 million in welfare and integrity services. The thoroughbred horse is enshrined in Irish and EU law. Significant legal and regulatory checks and balances are in place for thoroughbred horses from birth through their racing career and life cycle.

HRI will review the issues raised in the RTÉ documentary and will actively support any Department of Agriculture or Garda investigation, and urge anyone with information about mistreatment of horses to report it to An Garda Síochána.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) also issued the following statement regarding the issues that were brought to light by the RTÉ programme -

"We share in the shock and dismay regarding the images of abhorrent abuse and malpractice from an abattoir in Ireland which was broadcast on RTÉ last night.

“Urgent steps must be taken by the appropriate bodies to improve standards for all horses sent to this facility, and sanctions imposed on anyone found to have committed illegal acts or broken regulatory requirements.

“We are aware of the illegal tampering of horse passports and believe the introduction of a digital-only system for equine ID is essential to stop this practice. British racing, alongside other equestrian sports and welfare bodies, has repeatedly lobbied Government to introduce digital ID. We will continue to make it a core ask of the new administration.

“British racing’s goal, as set out in the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board’s strategy ‘A Life Well Lived’, is to achieve 100 per cent traceability of racehorses when they retire and take their first move from the sport.

“For horses for whom euthanasia is required — which in some circumstances is the most humane outcome — we are here to help those responsible make difficult but timely decisions. Our code of practice for euthanasia emphasises that horses must be allowed to retain their dignity to the end of their lives and if euthanasia is the only option, it should be performed at home or in suitable surroundings.

“In 2022 we imposed a rule that all racehorses which run in Great Britain must be signed out of the human and animal food chain. It was introduced to prevent any horse from racing in Britain and then legally being sold for slaughter to abattoirs, either domestically or internationally.

“British racing is open and transparent about the horses involved in our sport. Facts and information about the horses who are bred for racing, the lives they lead, and what happens when they leave the sport, including how they are supported by the sport’s dedicated aftercare charity Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), can be found on www.horsepwr.co.uk."