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Review of horse and greyhound fund will examine animal welfare issues 



Review of horse and greyhound fund will examine animal welfare issues 

An external review of Ireland’s controversial €95m horse and greyhound fund is set to consider whether or not the fund is being used to ensure “the highest levels of animal welfare standards”.

A review of the fund has been commissioned by the Department of Agriculture in accordance with a series of recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and is expected to commence shortly, the Department said.

The fund sees a multimillion taxpayer-funded allowance gifted to both the horseracing and greyhound racing industries each year at an 80:20 split.

In Budget 2024, horseracing received €76m and the greyhound industry €19m.

However, the use of the fund has been called into question on multiple occasions in recent years by a selection of vested interest groups from animal rights activists to stakeholders from other sports who feel that the two industries receive an unfair level of taxpayer funding compared with their own.

In an update for the PAC ahead of its appearance at the committee on Thursday morning the Department of Agriculture said that the terms of reference of the external review had been finalised and that the fund is to be evaluated in terms of the Department’s own governance and that of the bodies in receipt of the majority of the funding — Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and Greyhound Racing Ireland.

The Department added that the fund will likewise be evaluated under three broad headings:

  • Consideration of whether or not the use of the fund to subsidise prize funds “ represents best value for money”;
  • The “efficacy” of the fund in “ ensuring the highest levels of animal welfare standards ”;
  • A review of the governance framework in place between HRI and its own regulator the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB).

The IHRB, which has itself been at the centre of a protracted financial scandal in recent months, has a complicated relationship with HRI, a body for which it acts as regulator but which it is also funded by.

Animal welfare within horseracing in particular is an especially sensitive topic at present after the broadcast of an RTÉ Investigates documentary last month which alleged, amongst other things, that up to 20,000 Irish horses go ‘missing’ from the system each year.

The documentary also exposed alleged instances of cruelty towards horses at Ireland’s only horse abattoir at Straffan in Co Kildare — a facility run by a man with a historic conviction for cruelty to horses which has since closed.

Greyhound racing has also been called into question in terms of its welfare standards, notably in the wake of a 2019 RTÉ documentary which alleged that up to 6,000 greyhounds were being culled each year because they were not fast enough.

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