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Animal Justice Testifies on Bill to Ban Horse Export for Slaughter

OTTAWA – The House of Commons Agriculture Committee heard compelling testimony today, outlining why it’s time for Canada to outlaw the controversial practice of exporting live horses overseas for slaughter.

Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy at Animal Justice, appeared as a witness in support of Bill C-355, the Prohibition of the Export of Horses by Air for Slaughter Act.

“Horses shipped to Japan for slaughter endure an extremely long and stressful journey and are subjected to conditions that are much worse than those in which sport and show horses are transported to and from events,” Ms. Mitchell told the committee.

“I have observed these shipments with my own eyes many times at the Winnipeg airport and have watched as workers violently jab these frightened animals with long poles to force them off the trucks and have seen them loaded into small wooden crates barely larger than their bodies,”

In her testimony, Ms. Mitchell noted that Air Canada’s equine transport service, used to transport horses for show, ships a maximum of 18 horses per flight in spacious conditions with constant access to water.

“In contrast, horses exported for slaughter by other airlines are crammed on planes that often carry 100 or more horses at a time.”

Ms. Mitchell pushed back against the idea that existing regulations are enough to address the unnecessary suffering and distress for the approximately 2,000 draft horses every year who are flown to Japan to be fattened and slaughtered for sashimi.

“Provincial animal welfare laws and the federal Criminal Code are seldom used in the agricultural context. They are primarily applied when someone is deliberately cruel, such as beating an animal or starving them. Suffering caused by standard industry practices – including transport overseas – is exempt,” Ms. Mitchell told the committee.“The laws are weak, and they are weakly enforced.”

Ms. Mitchell explained how horses are denied food, water, and rest for the duration of their terrifying flight with no guarantees regarding their welfare once the plane lands.

“We calculate how long these horses are denied food, water, and rest based on when the planes touch down in Japan, as if the second the plane lands they are given food and water and they can immediately rest, but of course that’s not the case,” she said.“The reality is, the horses’ journey is far from over at that point. After the dozens of horses are unloaded and removed from their wooden crates, they are loaded onto trucks and taken to quarantine facilities.

“We simply do not know how long the process takes once the horses are in Japan but it does raise serious concerns that many of these shipments likely exceed the 28-hour legal limit.”

Bill C-355 was introduced in the House of Commons in September by Liberal MP Tim Louis, keeping a commitment first made in the 2021 federal election by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


Kaitlyn Mitchell
Director of Legal Advocacy
[email protected]