CTV’s investigative affairs show W5 aired a program on February 27 exposing the horrors of Canada’s shameful and secretive live horse export trade.
The horse meat industry ships thousands of gentle draft horses to Japan each year from airports in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. The horses are slaughtered for their meat, which is eaten raw as a luxury delicacy, with customers paying up to $100 per serving. This industry is valued at millions of dollars annually, and the majority of the horses in this trade are purposefully bred for slaughter. While many horses in Canada enjoy human care and companionship, horses destined for dinner plates spend their shortened lives in barren feedlots until the day they’re shipped to their death.
These transpacific flights are long and gruelling, and can last up to 13.5 hours—on top of lengthy ground transportation in Canada and Japan, and stressful loading and unloading. During the transport process, horses are denied food, water, and even adequate space—they are packed three to four horses per crate, with barely any room to move and certainly no ability to lie down and rest. The crates are also far too short for the size of the horses, and their ears uncomfortably protrude through the wooden slates of the crate roof. Sadly, horses regularly fall and are unable to stand back up, suffer painful injuries, or even perish on the journey.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) has spent years working to end the cruelty of Canada’s live horse exports. In 2018, the group sued the federal government for failing to ensure horse exporters comply with Canadian animal transport laws that required that horses had sufficient space. Shockingly, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had been signing off on these illegal, overcrowded shipments—causing additional suffering to horses during this already physically and mentally taxing journey. In December 2019, the Federal Court ruled that the CFIA is not required to follow its own rules. The CHDC is appealing to the Federal Court of Appeal.
The question of which animals are considered food and which are considered companions is a deeply complex cultural and emotional issue. Most Canadians consider these sensitive creatures to be companions who should not be killed. That’s why it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are opposed to slaughtering horses for human consumption, according to a 2019 Nanos poll.
While the suffering caused by live horse exports continues, public awareness of this issue has been rapidly increasing in recent years, thanks the persistence of animal protection groups and the involvement of Canadian icon Jann Arden, who has been very vocal about the industry and has helped bring much-needed media attention to the cause through her #HorseShit campaign.
The federal government has the authority and the moral responsibility to step in and put a stop to this cruel and needless trade. It’s what Canadians want, and what horses desperately need.
Please take action now and sign this official parliamentary petition to outlaw live horse exports from Canada.
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