I propose to take Questions Nos. 592 and 606 together.
The identification and registration of equidae is governed by EU Council Directives 90/426/EEC and 90/427/EEC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008 of 6 June 2008. The EU legislation has been transposed into national legislation via S.I. No. 357 of 2011 - European Communities (Equine) Regulations 2011 (as amended). Regulation 504/2008, which came into effect on 1 July 2009, provides that if an equine animal has not been identified within six months of the date of its birth, or by the 31st of December in the year of its birth, whichever date occurs later, it cannot be admitted to the food chain. It also provides that all equine animals registered from 1 July 2009 must be identified with a passport and a microchip. However, equines identified prior to this date were not required by previous EU legislation to be microchipped and it is not open to me to impose such a requirement. The exemption of equines registered prior to 1 July 2009 from the microchip requirement is in line with normal practice in relation to EU legislation that animals which have been correctly identified in accordance with existing legislation are not obliged to be re-identified under new legislation.
With regard to horses which were registered late but are micro chipped and have passports, the position is that, as stated above, these horses are ineligible for the human food chain. I have no plans to introduce a cull scheme for these horses. It is the responsibility of horse owners to ensure the welfare of horses in their care and to provide for their disposal. The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (FAWAC) has recommended the option of humane disposal of an equine where an owner can no longer adequately provide for it or where the equine can no longer fulfil the purpose for which it was bred as such action will help prevent the emergence of long-term animal welfare problems. My Department supports this advice as the most appropriate means of dealing with unwanted horses and I would ask owners of unwanted horses to avail of this option.