Thousands of homeless horses now run wild across Ireland -  another consequence of the economic recession as the animals are abandoned by owners who can no longer afford their upkeep.

Animal welfare organizations such as the Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals say the problem can only be solved by a mass national cull.

Ireland has the highest horse population per capita in Europe and an estimated 20,000 horses could now be ownerless.

"The owners of horses with injuries are just leaving them out to die because it costs too much to get a vet to fix the animal. DSPCA used to get little in way of horse calls and now it's the most common of the calls they get," DSPCA welfare officer Lisa Kemp told The Guardian.

The DSPCA have already taken care of 105 horses this year, compared to 26 in 2008.

Said DSPCA operations manager Orla Aungier, "It's all down to the recession because the first thing to go in a family budget are luxury items and, sadly, horses were luxury pets when the good times were rolling. Every animal welfare charity in the country will tell that Ireland is unique in terms of the volume of abandoned horses all over the state.

"They face a winter of starvation and in those circumstances sadly the only humane solution is to put those animals down. It is better that they are culled than left to starve to death which is shameful given Ireland's reputation for breeding and loving horses.”