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Ulster Unionist Assembly member for Fermanagh & South Tyrone has been made aware by recent articles in the Sunday Times and USPCA that the present system of Horse Passports is totally discredited due to both governmentsNorthern Irelandand ROI failure of proper controls which means that thousands of horses are being sold illegally for horse meat inEurope.

Tom said: “At one time the Irish could be described as a genuine horse loving nation but following the collapse of the Celtic tiger because there are tens of thousands of unwanted horses inIrelandbeing sold for meat inEuropewith false horse passports.

“Thousands of horses are legally slaughtered inIrelandeach year once it is accompanied by a legal document known as a horse passport which identifies the animal by microchip and medical treatments received. This measure was introduced to reduce the risk of unsuitable horses entering the food chain

“The USPCA have carried out investigations and revealed that consignments of horses have been collected by a network of drivers, smugglers who scour the countryside offering to re-home or dispose of unwanted animals using false passports. The integrity of both governments horse passport system is now in question, as the current Horse Passports Regulations (NI) was supposed to strengthen the scheme. Steps must be taken by Department of Agriculture to identify false passports and stop this illegal trade passing throughNorthern Irelandand seek assurances fromIrishRepublicto have rigorous controls.

“The USPCA have stated that this is a highly lucrative trade and some people are shifting up to 50 horses per week because once a horse is matched with forged passport and a microchip it can be sold for £300-£400.

"The Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sandra Overend is progressing a Private Members Bill at the Assembly to have the horse recognised as an agricultural animal, which would hopefully ensure a more regulated system for the Equine industry.”

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