Jan 16th, 2013 by Conor McCabe
Article from John Mooney of the Sunday Times, 6 May 2012.
Drugs seized in swoop on Irish horse shipment
BYLINE: John Mooney
A CONSIGNMENT of cannabis worth (EURO)600,000 (£485,000) and a four-figure sum in cash were seized by police in Scotland last week after a truck transporting Irish horses was stopped en route to an abattoir in England.
Fake horse passports and accompanying microchips were also seized by police. Two men from Northern Ireland were arrested.
It is understood that large rolls of cash were concealed inside the horses. The animals were later scanned using specialist equipment to see if they had been forced to ingest other materials.
The seizure follows an investigation by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Uspca) into the illegal trade in horses for the meat industry.
The investigation, which is continuing, discovered horses are being sold by criminal gangs to abattoirs in Ireland and Britain using forged paperwork.
All horses which enter the food chain are required to have a passport and to be implanted with a microchip to ensure the meat does not contain harmful chemicals.
The discovery that illegal drugs are being transported in shipments of live horses is likely to increase pressure on the authorities on both sides of the border to take action. The scale of the smuggling ring’s operation suggests an illegal trade in horses is continuing to boom and that some officials working in abattoirs may have been complicit.
Stephen Philpott, the chief executive of the Uspca, said the seizure exposed the types of individuals involved in the trade.
“We have been following lorry loads of horses to abattoirs in Ireland, Britain and Europe for months now. We have watched abattoirs being opened up late at night so people can deliver lorry loads of horses and have them slaughtered in the middle of the night,” he said.
“The Irish authorities are doing nothing to stop this trade. I would urge countries who are importing horse meat from Ireland and Northern Ireland to enforce an immediate ban as the meat they are importing is not fit for human consumption. Hundreds of unwanted horses are being rounded up and sold into the food chain using false paperwork.”
The demand for horse meat in France, Italy, Belgium and Holland is believed to be fuelling the trade. Since the economic downturn in 2008 more and more Irish horses, including thoroughbreds, have been abandoned by owners who can no longer afford to keep them.
There are tens of thousands of unwanted equines in Ireland, according to industry sources. Some are thoroughbreds once owned by syndicates of businessmen and racing enthusiasts who abandoned the animals due to the high cost of keeping and training them.
A spokeswoman for Ireland’s Department of Agriculture confirmed that a number of allegations had been received and were being investigated. “The minister and department are fully aware of the need to maintain vigilance in relation to official controls in this area,” she said.
The department has never prosecuted an abattoir for slaughtering an unregistered horse for human consumption.”