'Vets have important role in tackling illegal drug use'

Equine vets have an important role to play in the elimination of illegal medicines, performance enhancing drugs and hormones from the equestrian industry, a recent conference heard.

Denis Healy, veterinary inspector with the Agriculture Department, warned it is up to each and individual veterinary surgeon and all those in charge of horses to ensure that animals are free of such substances at all levels within both the thoroughbred and sport horse areas.

His warning to the recent equine conference in Kilkenny followed instances in recent years were animal remedies were detected on a small number of training yards without authorisation.

Mr Healy said investors need to be assured that during all stages of production from breeding, preparing for sales, through to competing in racing, eventing, or show jumping, that the usage of medicines is in accordance with national law.

The 'authorisation process' guarantees the quality, safety and efficacy of each medicine for the animal being treated and also for the general public where horses are slaughtered for human consumption.

"Ireland's reputation for breeding thoroughbred racehorses is renowned worldwide and results in substantial foreign direct investment into the country," he said.

"The thoroughbred horse racing industry is worth in excess of €1bn to the Irish economy, with the sports horse element contributing a further €0.75bn.

"The sale of, and /or export of, thoroughbred horses for future racing or of sports horses for eventing, show jumping or leisure purposes is a significant source of revenue.

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"Therefore a close working relationship between equine veterinarians and the horse industry in general, with the various sections of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, can help to protect and enhance the reputation of the Irish equine industry well into the future."

Those involved in the area of veterinary medicine will have another opportunity to listen to such key speakers at the Veterinary Ireland AGM and conference which takes place in Mullingar this coming Friday.

MEP Mairead McGuinness will deliver the opening address to attendees.

Among the items to be discussed will be 'Animal diseases exotic to Ireland' with the panel to include Michael Casey from the department, Bill Cashman from the Cashman and O'Driscoll, veterinary practice in Cork, Danny Holmes from Holmes Veterinary/St Anthony's Veterinary Hospital in Tralee, Pat Kirwan from Pat Kirwan and Associates in west Dublin, and Michael Sadlier from Troytown Grey Abbey Equine Veterinary, Kildare town.

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