The Red Lion abattoir, which hit the headlines in January for the alleged inhumane treatment of horses, has been told to cease operations as a slaughterhouse by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The FSA refused the Cheshire business approval to operate as a slaughterhouse because it “did not meet all the infrastructure requirements which permit the safe production of meat, and could therefore be a risk to public health“.

Owners High Peak Meat Exports Ltd were told to stop operating before 12pm yesterday (Monday 8 April), although the company said it had already stopped before the FSA’s decision.

The company needed re-approval after a name change in 2009.

Since then, FSA vets had carried out appraisal visits to the abattoir and advised on issues that needed acting on before February, but all of the improvements had not been made.

High Peak Meat Exports has said that it will not appeal the decision, but intends to invest in the premises.

It has not been ‘closed down’ and it [the decision] is not related to horse welfare or horsemeat,” said Amy Cope of the FSA.

The Red Lion abattoir, also known as Turners’, has been under the spotlight since Sky News broadcast footage allegedly showing cruelty at the plant in January.

There was further controversy when bute was found in horsemeat samples from the slaughterhouse in February.

BBC Northern Ireland then ran a piece suggesting that horses who had received bute were being slaughtered at the abattoir under false passports.

Ms Cope confirmed that the FSA’s investigations into passport irregularities would be ongoing.

Abattoir owner Valerie Turner has been stood down from acting as a British Showjumping official until the investigations of equine welfare have been concluded.

Jessica Stark of World Horse Welfare told H&H that the charity is pleased that action has been taken, but disappointed that it isn’t on welfare grounds.

We want the issues with welfare and passports to be resolved – we would hope before they open again,” said Ms Stark.

“We recognise that humane slaughter does have a place to prevent suffering and neglect and are mindful of what will be happening to horses that would have gone there,” she added.

“We will be keeping an eye on the situation.”