Footage of Cruelty and Abuse of Horses in Kildare revealed by RTÉ Investigates

Footage of Cruelty and Abuse of Horses in Kildare revealed by RTÉ Investigates

In a major new investigation to be broadcast this Wednesday and Thursday night on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player, RTÉ Investigates examines the Irish and European horse industries. Using hidden cameras, RTÉ Investigates exposes the abuse horses can suffer after they leave the spotlight.

Serious animal welfare abuses and cruelty have been uncovered in the treatment of horses that are being sent for slaughter at the country’s only licensed equine abattoir. The behaviour was filmed in a building (a lairage) used by Shannonside Foods Ltd in Straffan, where the company keeps horses before they are brought to the kill room. Footage, captured by RTÉ Investigates, shows the routine mistreatment of the animals and will be aired as part of a special documentary tomorrow night on RTÉ One.

Horses hold a very special place in Irish life - for pleasure, leisure, racing, showjumping, and even as pets. RTÉ Investigates goes inside the equine industry to show how some of these horses are slaughtered here in Ireland, while others are given new identities and traded in deals across Europe. The racing industry alone will receive €76m in State support this year. Thousands of horses are bred each year to sustain this and other equine pursuits.  What happens when they are no longer useful or too expensive to keep?

Arising out of concerns for the welfare of horses, including their treatment by some associated with the Shannonside Foods Ltd slaughterhouse in Straffan, Co.Kildare, RTÉ Investigates monitored activity at the facility. The research focused in particular on a lairage shed where official Department of Agriculture inspectors do not have a remit to regulate or inspect. In this shed, the animals are held and screened in the days leading up to their slaughter.


RTÉ hidden cameras caught the routine abuse of animals. The abuses included ill-treatment of dying horses. Viewers can see horses routinely be whipped and struck with long lengths of plastic piping, including being hit around the head. In another example, a horse is filmed struggling for hours before it fell, and tried to get up many times. The only attention the horse got was the illegal use of a pitchfork in its side to try and force it up. After hours of struggling, it died. It was physically dragged out of the shed the next day.

In Ireland, RTÉ Investigates analysed data which allowed, for the first time, to profile the background of horses that were sent for slaughter. It has never been possible to fully see the link between the racing and slaughter industries until now.

The data allowed RTÉ Investigates journalists to track back and identify thousands of horses that passed through Ireland's only licensed horse abattoir. Two-thirds of the horses were thoroughbred racers, competitors who between them had raced more than 3,000 times, earning their owners more than €1.5 million on tracks across Ireland, the UK and France as well multiples of that for punters.

Shannonside Foods Ltd said any allegation of an equine being mistreated "will be fully investigated by the Company".


The wide-ranging investigation will be revealed in a hard-hitting hour-long documentary, RTÉ Investigates: Horses - Making a Killing to be broadcast this Wednesday night, 12 June at 9.35pm on RTÉ One and in an additional special report on Prime Time on Thursday night at 9.35pm on RTÉ One. The investigation also exposes evidence of systemic flaws in the traceability of horses and how this was threatening the human food chain across Europe. The work has already prompted investigations across Europe.

Both the documentary and special report across the two nights will be available to stream live and catch up on the RTÉ Player to viewers across Europe and worldwide. www.rte.ie/player

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