Feature

Ireland: Why our horses get ground up

Where did all those horses come from that ended up in Europe’s hamburgers? Blame Ireland.

Eileen BattersbyThe Irish Times

Where did all those horses come from that ended up in Europe’s hamburgers? Blame Ireland, said Eileen Battersby. We are Europe’s largest breeder of horses, and the bloodstock sector contributes nearly $1.3 billion to the Irish economy. But indiscriminate breeding in this country has produced “huge numbers of unwanted horses, many of them mediocre.” Rapacious owners of broodmares brought inferior mares to be bred with top stallions, hoping to strike it rich with a prize-winning foal. But since it’s the mare that raises the foal, thus contributing far more than half to its disposition, the attempt “proved a greedy, foolhardy gamble.” Thousands of surplus horses and ponies were bred, and they were good for nothing—too high-spirited for work, thanks to their thoroughbred sires, but not talented enough for racing or dressage, thanks to their inferior dams. The recession hit, sales prices dropped, and breeders suddenly couldn’t give horses away. Unsold animals were being abandoned, and many ended up at slaughterhouses across Europe. To remedy this situation, we will have to enact tighter quality control in horse breeding. Surely none of us want to see “the legendary Irish horse” continue to end up as “the stuff of cheap convenience foods.”

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