The seven sites, which included farms, houses and commercial premises, were located in counties Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Westmeath and Kilkenny.
According to a Garda Síochána statement, the searches are part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by members of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation into offences of deception pursuant to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Offences Act, 2001. These involve fraudulent practices regarding tampering of identification passports and microchips of horses presented for slaughter.
Although horsemeat is not widely consumed in Ireland, the meat is exported to other countries, with a microchip system in place to ensure traceability and that all horses slaughtered for consumption are fit for purpose.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said in a statement on the investigation that "no equines can be slaughtered unless there is a record of it on the central equine database, which is part of the Department’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system". The DAFM supervises the removal of microchips from all slaughtered equines to ensure it matches its recorded data, and if the horse is deemed not eligible for consumption, it is expected to be excluded from the food chain.
DAFM declined to comment on the Garda investigation further beyond confirming that it and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are supporting it.
No arrests are understood to have been made as part of the raids however the investigation is ongoing.
A horsemeat scandal rocked the European meat industry in 2013 with the repercussions still being felt today. In the case of the 2013 situation, undeclared horsemeat was found in beef products, damaging consumer trust in the meat industry.