7,618 horses were killed for their meat in Ireland in 2016, an 25% increase since 2015.
ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling said in the Irish Examiner that it's mostly sport and race horses who are being slaughtered for food in Ireland.
“It could be horses who have reached an age where they can’t perform anymore, or who don’t make the grade,” he said.
“Some might have some sort of injury and be healthy enough to make the trip to the slaughterhouse, but not to live on indefinitely.”
Although people in Ireland are shocked at the thoughts of eating horse meat, over 1 billion people regularly eat it across the globe. The majority of the Irish carcasses are exported to continental Europe, where they are consumed as burgers or steaks.
The horse meat industry was at its highest in 2011, when over 24,000 horse were slaughtered during the recession - thought to be thoroughbreds who failed to make it as good investments.
In comparison, 1.6m cattle and 2.7m sheep were killed at Department-approved Irish slaughter facilities in 2016.
Mr Dowling also noted that often it can be kinder to humanely euthanise an animal rather than leave it vulnerable to a life of neglect.