In the dark of night on December 5, 2021, with temperatures dropping to a bone chilling -36 degrees celsius with the windchill, truckloads of horses arrived at the Winnipeg airport to be shipped to Japan. After a lengthy four to five hour trip on an open-sided transport truck to the airport, the animals then waited on the tarmac for another five to six hours before enduring their gruelling journey overseas. The journey can take more than 28 hours in total, during which time the horses are allowed to go without food, water, or rest.
The scene that played out at the Winnipeg airport this week also takes place at airports in Calgary and Edmonton. In fact, nearly 11,000 live horses were exported in 2019 as part of Canada’s cruel live animal export trade, with approximately 2,686 of those animals shipped to Japan for slaughter. More than 40,000 live horses have been flown to Japan from airports in western Canada since 2013. When the horses arrive in Japan, they spend 10 or more days in a government quarantine facility, and are then moved to feedlots to be fattened up. The horses are ultimately slaughtered, all to be eaten as raw horse meat—a delicacy for the wealthy.
Although this isn’t the first time horses have been exported from Canada to satisfy the demand for raw horse meat in Asia, we are hopeful that it could be the last. That’s because in their 2021 election platform, the federal Liberals made a commitment to ban the live export of horses for slaughter. This momentous promise comes after years of tireless advocacy from The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and others across the country, including musician Jann Arden, as well as a recent House of Commons petition sponsored by MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.
But until the Liberal government makes good on this important promise, horses will continue to be exported from Canada under horrific conditions, all to be slaughtered and served as horse sashimi in Japan. We need swift action to ban this practice before any more horses are exported.
In addition to the length of the journey, Canada’s live horse export industry causes immense suffering due to the fact that horses are not trained or conditioned for transport. They are prone to injury, respiratory disease, and dehydration due to the stress of transport. These large flight animals are crammed into tiny crates for their agonizing journey, with some arriving injured or even dead. Even when horses are slaughtered closer to home, and are not subjected to these exceptionally cruel transport conditions, nearly seven in 10 Canadians are opposed to any slaughter of horses for human consumption.
In addition to encouraging the government to move quickly to make good on its election promise, Animal Justice has submitted a complaint to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency calling for an investigation and enforcement action in response to the shipment of horses during extreme winter weather in Winnipeg this week. Although Canada has some of the worst animal transport laws in the western world, even our meagre laws are clear that animals should not be exposed to extreme weather conditions during transport. In addition to frigid temperatures that night, Winnipeg and the surrounding area were experiencing severe winds and blowing snow, making transport particularly treacherous and contributing unnecessarily to the suffering of these horses.
Let’s hope our elected officials hear the message loud and clear: It’s time to put an end to this #horseshit for good.
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