Horse Racing Ireland has said it is conducting an investigation into details aired in a BBC Panorama documentary which showed horses being sent from Ireland to Britain for slaughter.

The director of equine welfare and bloodstock at HRI, John Osborne, told RTÉ's News at One that the broadcast "in no way reflects what we expect about the care of horses in the industry".

Mr Osborne described some scenes in the documentary as "abhorrent" and "not condoned in any way".

He said HRI records show that of the horses slaughtered in British abbatoirs in 2020, less than 200 were Irish-bred, which he said was much less numbers than the documentary presented.

Mr Osborne said: "In any case it's unacceptable and we are looking into certain aspects of it...to get to the bottom of the detail."

He said the industry prides itself on the care of the horses and works to ensure horses are kept in the best of care throughout their lives and are respected in death.

Mr Osborne said that the numbers of horses being presented for slaughter in Ireland each year is declining, with 1,500 being presented in 2020.

He said many horses can be injured and fail to recover fully and some young thoroughbreds have frailties that reduce their lifespan. He said that in 2019 there were 50,000 thoroughbred horses in Ireland, with 8,949 in training.

Mr Osborne explained that a triple-lock traceability system records the unique markings of young foals as part of its passport.

DNA samples are also matched up to this, while thoroughbreds and most horses have also been micro-chipped over the last 10 years.

This system then monitors horse welfare and each premises has a link to a veterinary practice.

From 2021 an e-passport has been put in place for horses, containing all information about their location and who is responsible for them.

Mr Osborne said that there are no centralised records of the numbers of horses who die in yards in the country each year, but there are plans to gather this data.

He said that the Department of Agriculture is carrying out a census this year of the animals to help improve centralised data storage.

Mr Osborne said that the options for dealing with horses when they die are limited. He said that "when horses die they do present us with a challenge".

He said that burial is no longer permitted for environmental reasons and, while incineration is available in other countries, it is very costly and there is no facility for it in Ireland.

He said there are 40 licensed rendering facilities and one licenced horse meat processor in Ireland who take the animals.

He said that "options are limited and it is a situation that needs to be dealt with".