Northern Ireland

Legal horse slaughter trade 'in jeopardy'

Image caption These horses are in a holding centre in the Belfast hills before being slaughtered

A man who slaughters horses legally in Northern Ireland has said he fears for the future of his business in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Peter Murdock has been in the business of equine slaughter, at a premises near Belfast, for more than 30 years.

He sources them in NI, takes them to an abattoir and the meat is exported to France and Italy for human consumption.

But because the facility also slaughters cattle, the abattoir is no longer willing to kill horses.

Mr Murdock said he was licensed and checked by the proper inspectors.

"People know what I do." he said. "The owners bring them to me or to the slaughterhouse."

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development vets inspect everything, he said.

But the recent furore over horsemeat in beef products has hit him hard.

The facility also slaughters cattle and Mr Murdock said beef farmers are a much bigger lobby than he is.

Image caption Peter Murdock says he is licensed and checked by the proper authorities

Now, he said, his only option was to use a slaughterhouse in Somerset which has processed thousands of horses sourced from Northern Ireland.

Mr Murdock is considering building his own slaughterhouse, but is also calling for a tightening of the passport and microchip system which should regulate any horses entering the food chain.

He said he also feared that if a local supplier is not taking horses for slaughter, owners may be tempted to dump them illegally.

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