Media Releases

Live Horse Export Bombshell: Animal Justice Investigation Reveals Troubling Pattern of Illegal Shipments

EDMONTON—A groundbreaking investigation by Animal Justice and Japanese animal protection group Life Investigation Agency (LIA) has identified a disturbing pattern of legal violations in flying live horses from Canada to Japan for slaughter. The investigation shows that these shipments frequently exceed the federally mandated 28-hour time limit for the arduous journey. 

The video investigation tracked four shipments of horses leaving Edmonton in May and June of 2024 for Kansai and Kitakyushu airports in Japan. The investigation marks the first time shipments of horses exported for slaughter have been documented both departing from Canada and arriving in Japan, offering unprecedented insight into what these animals endure before they are eventually fattened, slaughtered, and eaten as a raw delicacy.

Horses, transported from rural Alberta to Edmonton International Airport, waited in crates for hours before being flown to Alaska and then enduring a grueling journey overseas to Japan. Canadian law prohibits transporting these horses for more than 28 hours without food, water, and rest, yet official time records kept by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency generally end when the horses touch down in Japan, failing to account for the rest of the horses’ harrowing journey. When asked by legislators when horses actually receive food and water after they land in Japan, industry representatives claimed that “the last horse off the flight is back on feed, water and rest within two hours of landing.”

Contrary to these industry claims, footage obtained by Animal Justice and Life Investigation Agency shows that after the planes touch down in Japan, exhausted horses were slowly unloaded with some waiting for more than four hours before they were trucked to a quarantine facility 30 minutes to one hour away. From the time the planes landed, all four shipments took between four hours and 20 minutes and a whopping six and a half hours before the horses reached the quarantine feedlot where they could finally eat, drink, and rest.  

All four shipments went according to plan, yet it appears most, if not all, went over the 28-hour legal limit.  

Based on what investigators documented, and a detailed analysis of government records obtained by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, Animal Justice has determined that all shipments from Winnipeg to Kitakyushu and Kansai airports over the last seven months appear to have gone over the 28-hour limit, as did 60% of shipments leaving Edmonton.  Animal Justice has outlined these findings in a new report.

Animal Justice has lodged a formal complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) based on these observations.  In addition to calling for enforcement action to be taken in relation to the four shipments for exceeding the 28-hour limit, the group is calling for all horse exports for slaughter to stop until those involved can guarantee that all shipments will comply with the law.

“We have so few laws in Canada to protect horses exported for slaughter. Enforcing those laws is the least we can do for these gentle animals,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy at Animal Justice. “This new investigation appears to demonstrate a clear pattern of regulations being flagrantly ignored. We are urging the CFIA to look into this troubling situation and to halt all horse exports for slaughter until the industry can guarantee that the shipments will comply with Canadian animal transport laws.”

Horses typically graze for eight or more hours per day and can become dehydrated on long-haul flights after just 10-15 hours. Leaving horses confined in crates without food, water, or rest for more than the already difficult-to-endure legal limit exponentially increases their distress and suffering caused by extreme hunger, thirst, fear, stress, and injury.

The investigation also exposed cruel treatment the horses face once unloaded. On three separate occasions, trucks full of horses were sprayed directly with chemical disinfectant strong enough to burn the eyes and airways of investigators metres away. Some of the severely dehydrated horses were seen desperately trying to lick the harsh chemical off the nets of the truck. 

“It was heartbreaking to see some horses visibly shaking with fear upon arrival at the quarantine facility,” said Ren Yabuki, director of Life Investigation Agency. “Horses were sprayed with disinfectant and workers forcefully unloaded them from trucks, yelling at them and banging metal rods. We all need to raise our voices to stop this unethical exporting of horses to Japan as it completely disregards their rights and safety.”

Bill C-355, which would ban the air export of Canadian horses for slaughter, cleared the House of Commons earlier this year and is now in the hands of the Senate.  

Animal Justice is currently engaged in a private prosecution of a Manitoba horse exporter who exceeded the 28-hour legal time limit in 2022.


You can find Animal Justice’s video exposé here and obtain a copy of the report here. The legal complaint to the CFIA is here


Kaitlyn Mitchell
[email protected]