22,000 horses slaughtered for meat market over three years
NEARLY 22,000 unwanted Irish horses have been slaughtered for meat over the past three years - while 4,000 abandoned horses have been put to sleep.
Figures released by the Department of Agriculture reveal 6,573 horses were slaughtered for human consumption last year, with 7,748 slaughtered in 2017 and 7,618 slaughtered in 2016.
The bulk of the horsemeat is destined to be eaten by customers in Belgium, France and Italy.
The figures also reveal that the number of horses being euthanised by local authorities has nearly halved from a high of 1,744 in 2016 to 973 last year.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said: "The Control of Horses Act 1996 provides powers to local authorities to deal with stray and abandoned horses and for the designation, by each local authority via bylaws, of control areas in which horses cannot be kept without a licence."
While people in Ireland and the UK tend to be horrified at the thought of eating horse meat, one billion people do so across the world.
In 2011, at the height of the recession, just over 24,000 unwanted horses were slaughtered for meat here.