Ban the Export of Live Horses for Slaughter

Every year, thousands of live draft horses are exported by cargo jet, from Canada to Japan, where they are slaughtered for human consumption.

Since 2013, more than 40,000 of these sensitive animals have been forced to endure travel time often exceeding 28 hours, during which they are deprived of food, water and rest.

And despite the Prime Minister issuing a mandate calling on the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food at the time to ban this practice in December 2021, over 5,000 horses have since been flown to their death. Yet hope is on the horizon for these horses!

In 2023, Bill C-355, the Prohibition of the Export of Horses by Air for Slaughter Act, was introduced in the House of Commons to ban the export by air of live horses from Canada for slaughter. On May 9th, 2024, the Bill was passed by a majority of federal MPs and is now awaiting review by the Senate. If passed, it will finally become law!

Speak out in the name of these horses!

Call for a ban on live horse exports by sending this letter to your federal decision-makers today.

10 Troubling Facts About the Export of Live Horses from Canada

1. Horse meat is eaten in many countries across the globe

— This includes Canada as well as several European, South American and Asian countries.1

— Additionally, the meat of horses who have been slaughtered in Canada is exported to various countries.

— Canada also exports live horses to fill market demand for fresh horse meat in Japan. Once in Japan, these horses are “fattened” then slaughtered.

2. Horses sent abroad for slaughter are raised on feedlots in Western Canada

— A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation used in intensive animal farming to increase the amount of fat gained by each animal, such as cows or horses, as quickly as possible prior to slaughter.

3. Many draft horses bred for slaughter endure substandard living conditions

— Before they are exported, these horses are farmed on barren, open Canadian feedlots, where a lack of shelter or protection from the elements has been documented. This occurs despite the fact that the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines requires horses to have access to shelter that protects them from the harmful effects of extreme weather conditions.2

— These animals are also at risk of having pain management medication withheld, as phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug most commonly used to treat chronic and acute pain in horses, is banned for use in horses raised for human consumption.

4. Transporting horses causes them immense stress

— As prey animals with strong fight-or-flight instincts, horses are extremely sensitive to the unfamiliar, stressful and frightening stimuli they experience during transport.

— The journey by truck from the feedlot to the airport can therefore cause them significant distress.

— Horses have also been documented being jabbed with metal rods during the unloading process once they reach the (Canadian) airport. This occurs despite the fact that the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines requires horses to be handled in a manner that does not subject them to avoidable pain or avoidable injury.3 The Health of Animals Regulations also prohibit any person from handling an animal in any way that is likely to cause their suffering, injury or death.4

5. Horses experience auditory distress at the airport

— Cargo jets have been documented landing on the runway directly beside crated horses.

— While the average volume of a cargo jet landing on a runway can exceed 140 decibels, horses, who have a greater range of sound than the average human ear, show visible signs of distress with sounds louder than 100 decibels.

6. Horses exported for slaughter do not benefit from the same treatment as other horses

— Unlike horses imported or exported for pleasure or show, horses exported for slaughter are unaccustomed to being transported. They fly unaccompanied, without an attendant, and have no access to food, water or rest for the entire journey.  

7. Horses are shipped by air in distressing and inadequate conditions

— Once the plane takes off from the Edmonton, Calgary or Winnipeg airports, horses are at an even greater risk of distress and injury. This is due to possible loss of balance, considering their high center of gravity, as their forelimbs bear 60% of their weight and lack of space considering their close proximity to the other horses in their crate 

— Moreover, the crates in which they are transported are problematic for several reasons. Horses are arbitrarily packed 3–4 to a crate, regardless of compatibility. This impedes the horses’ ability to comfortably turn around or move during transportation.

8. By Canadian law, horses can travel without food, water and rest for 28 hours

— Yet studies show there is an increased risk of injury, dehydration, and fatigue with increased journey duration.

— It has also been proven that withholding water from horses for longer than 24 hours during hot weather causes severe dehydration. Horses are exported from Canada in all seasons, including summer when temperatures can be high.

— Insufficient water intake also puts these animals at increased risk of painful intestinal colic.

— Documented cases of airport delays have extended the permitted 28-hour transport time up to 36 hours, further jeopardizing the horses’ physical wellbeing.

9. It is unclear how these horses are treated once they reach their destination

— Once the horses arrive in Japan, their treatment no longer falls under Canadian jurisdiction

— It is therefore unknown when horses are once again provided with water and food, likely further extending their 28-hour fasting period.

— This lack of transparency pertaining to the horses’ treatment and slaughter abroad is problematic due to their sensitive nature, physiology and flight response.

10. The horses are “fattened” on a Japanese feedlot before being slaughtered

— Canadian horses are slaughtered in Japan to produce basashi, sashimi made of raw horse meat, an expensive dish usually served at high-end restaurants.

Help protect these horses today!

Ask your MP and federal decision-makers to ban live horse exports by sending them this letter without delay.

Flight Animals,” a report by CTV’s current affairs program, W5, shed light in 2021 on the disturbing Canadian practice of exporting live horses for human consumption. 

Photos: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition