Canada Must Stop Shipping Live Horses Overseas for Slaughter, Say Leading Animal Welfare Experts

Members of Parliament are set to continue debate this week on Bill C-355 – an important proposed law that would end the export of live horses from Canada for slaughter overseas. The private member’s bill was introduced by Liberal MP Tim Louis in September of 2023. As Bill C-355 makes its way through the legislative process, some Conservative MPs have signaled their opposition to the Bill, falsely claiming that shipping horses for over 24 hours from remote feedlots in Canada overseas to Japan does not pose animal welfare risks and that horses exported for slaughter are subject to the same treatment as prize horses flown abroad for sporting competitions. 

Both of these claims are false.

In a letter shared today with MPs, 20 veterinarians and animal welfare experts pointed to clear scientific evidence showing that the conditions in which horses are exported overseas for slaughter cause suffering in the form of anxiety, pain, fear, exhaustion, thirst, and hunger. It also puts them at risk of injury and illness. More than a dozen horses have died during this gruelling journey since 2011, while even more have collapsed in their crates.

The Long & Torturous Journey Overseas

Each year, approximately 2,000 draft horses are shipped from Western Canadian airports to be violently killed overseas and eaten as a raw delicacy. Their journey is nothing short of torturous. These gentle giants are forced to endure long flights confined in tiny crates. The entire trip can take more than 24 hours, during which they have no opportunity to eat food, drink water, or rest. The conditions are stressful, dangerous, and sometimes deadly.

NDP MPs have been pushing for years to ban the export of live horses for slaughter, with MP Alistair MacGregor presenting a Parliamentary petition signed by nearly 40,000 Canadians in February of 2023 calling for a ban. In June of 2023, Senator Pierre Dalphond teamed up with Canadian icon Jann Arden to introduce Bill S-270, the Horse Protection Act in an effort to end the practice once and for all.

Almost two years ago to the day, on December 16, 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau directed Canada’s then-Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to end the export of live horses for slaughter in a Ministerial mandate letter, but two years later, the practice continues, with another shipment leaving Edmonton a mere four days ago.

Protecting Horses From Needless Suffering Is Not a Partisan Issue

During a Parliamentary debate on Bill C-355 last month, Conservative MP John Barlow stated that lawmakers should “ensure that legislation is based on sound science and data from experts, and not on emotion. This legislation, I would argue, is based on emotion, and not on science or data.” Today’s letter shows quite clearly that there is a strong scientific basis for ending the export of live horses for slaughter overseas.

Polling has also shown clearly that Canadians of all political stripes support a ban on this cruel practice. It’s time for elected representatives to put politics aside and bring Canada’s laws in line with the values of Canadians and clear scientific evidence.

Banner: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition