Operations at Shannonside Foods, the horse abattoir at the centre of an RTÉ Investigates programme, have been suspended by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

The Co Kildare slaughter plant is also subject to a legal notice detaining all carcases that presented for slaughter in the past week.

The Department of Agriculture and gardaí are continuing to investigate Shannonside Foods.

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Department said the building adjacent to the slaughter plant, where the majority of the hidden camera footage was filmed, does not form part of the Department of Agriculture approved slaughter plant.

“It is not the lairage of the plant and is not subject to direct veterinary supervision under the relevant food and feed hygiene regulations which govern the operation of slaughter plants.

“The Department does not have a permanent presence on equine or other farmed animal holdings, but any officer of the Department authorised under the Animal Health and Welfare Act has the authority to enter and inspect premises where issues arise.

“All persons keeping horses are required to have an equine premises registration number,” the Department said.

‘Active investigation’

Minister McConalogue said no animals presented for slaughter in the last three weeks have entered the food chain.

“This is an active investigation and while it is vitally important that I ensure that process continues without prejudice, I am stating categorically that the full rigour of the law will be applied where warranted, and no stone left unturned.

“And while, for this reason, I cannot comment in detail on the investigation, I can confirm that the following actions have been taken: no animals have entered the food chain from this slaughter plant in the past three weeks, all carcases that were presented for slaughter last week are detained and the operation of the plant is now fully suspended,” he said.

The minister added he is committed to improving equine traceability and ensuring the highest standards of equine welfare.

“In this regard, it is very clear that a collective effort across the European Union (EU), among member states and the Commission is required to further improve the traceability system.

“My immediate priority, however, is to ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear in relation to these matters,” he said.

On Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 June RTÉ Investigates aired episodes showing activities which could constitute breaches of animal welfare and horse traceability regulations.

Footage of cruelty to animals was also shown.

Shannonside Foods is Ireland’s only active abattoir for horses.

A protest calling for its closure took place at the premises in recent days.