Canada, stop exporting live horses for slaughter.

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Thousands of live horses are exported each year from Canadian cities (Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg) to Japan, where they are slaughtered for a luxury item, raw horsemeat basashi.

These shipments have been fraught with problems since they began. Repeated investigations have shown dire conditions for these horses who are unfortunate enough to be shipped overseas, then slaughtered on another continent where Canada has no oversight or jurisdiction.

Problems include:

1)      International Air Transport Association (IATA) and current Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations have been routinely broken.  Regulations regarding head clearance and segregation of horses over 14 hands high have been ignored and not enforced by the CFIA.  These transport conditions (multiple horses crammed in small crates with little room to move) are inhumane and are more likely to lead to injuries and potential deaths during transport. Veterinarians consulted are concerned that when horses go down during turbulence or takeoff and landing, they may be unable to get up again in a crowded crate and are at risk for being trampled.

2)      Access to Information documents reveal that several horses have died in transit. Six horses died on one flight alone, and on another occasion a horse was found dead upside down in his crate.

3)      The long duration of the transports.   Total time includes loading at the feedlots and transport time to the airports. Typically, several trucks full of horses arrive at the airports the evening before a flight. The horses are loaded, usually three or four to a crate, into wooden crates where they will spend approximately 11-12 hours overnight until the cargo plane for Japan leaves the following morning. In the event of a delay, this can be even longer. On September 12th 2017, for example, there was a delay of several hours and horses spent over 18 hours at the airport (YYC) in crates.  This lengthy period is followed by a flight to Japan of between 10.5 and 12 hours (depending on which cities they are departing from/arriving at), where they are unloaded and driven to quarantine centres.  We have observed most of these shipments to be in the 28-30 hour range, but they are even longer if there is a delay.

4)      If the journey is not expected to exceed 36 hours, no food and water is provided. Canadian law permits horses to be transported without food and water for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest.  This is in contrast to European (EU) legislation where horses are required to be offered water every 8 hours in transit.  The CFIA is currently considering reducing the travel time to 28 hours (still without food and water).

5)      Unlike in Europe, Canadian animals can be transported in all weather extremes. EU regulations require special ventilation on transport trucks, and ban animal transport in extreme heat or cold. In Alberta, these shipments take place in all weather conditions.

6)      Horses are flight animals and may panic in stressful situations.  Raised on feedlots and unused to travel, being exported to another country is likely highly stressful for them. An airport tarmac with high levels of noise, jet blasts and exposure to deicing fluids is no place for animals.

7)      Horses raised for the live export market are usually bred and raised on barren feedlots mired in mud and manure, with no enrichment or shelter from the elements.

Despite many complaints by organizations like the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition over a period of several years, these problems continue.  According to Humane Society International, “Canadian animal transport standards are among the worst in the industrialized world”.

Long distance transportation of animals is opposed by many animal welfare organizations, both in Canada and internationally. 

The Alberta SPCA ascribes to five core beliefs (also known as the “Five Freedoms”). They are freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain and injury; freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress.  Horses being exported to Japan are compromised in all five areas.

Suffering is inherent in long distance transport. The longer the time of the journey, the greater the risk of serious health and welfare problems such as respiratory problems, colic, gastrointestinal problems, injuries and death.  In view of all these factors, we are asking the government of Canada to act immediately to ban live horse export for slaughter.



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