Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, says the publication of a report by the Minister for Agriculture into the horsemeat scandal raises more serious questions about how horse passports are administered in Ireland.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “The regulation of the horse slaughtering business in Ireland needs to be tightened considerably. There are far too many organisations that can issue horse passports, which leaves the system open to abuse.
“There have been instances where the same passport has been used for multiple horses that were slaughtered, which is extremely worrying. We have no idea how many illegal horses entered the food chain here but what we can do is prevent it ever happening again.
“We need one regulatory body in Ireland that oversees the movement and slaughter of horses similar to the system in place for cattle.
“Minister Coveney has acknowledged that a tighter system needs to be introduced but he still agrees that the issuing of passports for thoroughbred breeds can be dealt with by the breeding societies. The issuing of identification for horses should be done directly, which is what happens with cattle, and not through online registration.”
Deputy Ó Cuív added that the findings in the report also confirm his view that an independent investigation is needed into the scandal.
“I have asked the Minister on a number of occasions what complaints have been made to his Department in the last year about the control and issuing of passports and microchips for horses but so far I have not received a satisfactory answer. This is now a major issue because of a huge increase in the number of horses slaughtered in Ireland in recent years.
“There are far too many questions that have gone unanswered and I feel that an outside investigation by an independent body would provide these answers in a quick and timely fashion.
“The investigation could be carried out by a person appointed by the Oireachtas to ascertain the full facts. They should be tasked with examining the whole beef processing and horse slaughter processes; including labelling as well as import and export practices.
“I have also asked Minister Coveney to provide a progress report every six months to the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee so the adequate pressure can be kept on the meat industry to maintain its standards. This is also needed to ensure that all the promises contained in the report are followed through.”