Systemic Failures: Why the Department of Agriculture Must Act Now


The recent RTÉ Investigates programme has revealed alarming levels of cruelty to horses by a group of people that we could call a lot of things… most of which we would be sued for!! The messages, calls and texts we’ve gotten all morning show the passion and care grassroots equestrians have for their horses.

This group of people do not represent the wider industry. Their treatment of horses IS NOT how grassroots equestrians treat their horses. This mistreatment of horses by the “people” shown is not just unacceptable; it is a direct result of systemic failures. Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue’s promise to apply “the full rigors of the law” is necessary, but it raises the question: Why were these abuses allowed to happen in the first place?

There was Department Vets in a shed literally 50 yards in the difference and they knew nothing was happing… you’re taking the piss, surely? It is incredibly hard to believe that they didn’t know something was going on… It was a sickening watch and change has to happen NOW not in a few months’ time when “the investigation” is over.


The investigation uncovered illegal activities at Shannonside Foods Ltd in Straffan, Co Kildare. Undercover cameras caught an Animal Welfare Officer inserting false identification microchips into horses and using spray paint to alter their markings. This not only violates animal welfare laws but also compromises the human food chain.

Data from the investigation showed that 71% of the 2,400 horses slaughtered at Shannonside Foods between January 2023 and March 2024 were thoroughbreds, bred for racing but discarded when no longer profitable. These horses had collectively earned over €1.5 million, only to end up in a slaughterhouse.


Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) responded to the RTÉ Investigates documentary with a strong condemnation of the revealed abuses. HRI stated, “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’s commitment to zero tolerance for mistreatment and their significant investment of €16.1 million in welfare and integrity services highlights their dedication to protecting horses.


Minister McConalogue assures us that a thorough investigation is underway. But this isn’t enough. The Department of Agriculture must take immediate and stringent actions to prevent such cruelty. The current oversight mechanisms have failed, and we need tougher regulations and more rigorous enforcement. HRI has urged the Department to act decisively and supports any investigation by the Department of Agriculture or Gardaí.


John Osborne from HRI described the programme as “abhorrent and disgusting.” He emphasized that the actions of a few bad actors should not overshadow the efforts of the many who treat horses with care and respect. HRI’s proactive stance and their call for stronger regulatory measures are commendable, but they also highlight the gaps in the Department of Agriculture’s oversight.


To truly protect our horses, we need:

  • Stricter enforcement of existing animal welfare laws.
  • Bans for people like those in the videos.
  • Better traceability systems to prevent identity laundering.
  • Immediate suspension and investigation of facilities found in violation.
  • More robust intergovernmental communication, especially post-Brexit.


Anyone with information about horse mistreatment must report it to the authorities immediately. Silence allows these abuses to continue. By speaking up, we can ensure those responsible are held accountable.


We must demand immediate action from the Department of Agriculture. No more delays, no more excuses. The welfare of our horses depends on it. The time for change is now. Is it time to Lobby the Department of Agriculture? 9 Months out from an Election, if we want change, now is our time to make this happen. We will publish something bigger on lobbying after we see part 2 tonight.


Systemic Failures: Why the Department of Agriculture Must Act Now

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