“They deserve so much better than this.” These are the words of Juno Award-winning and Canadian Music Hall of Famer, Jann Arden.
No stranger to music and animal lovers, Arden’s passion for our four-legged friends is well known. And on September 15, she put herself on the frontline of a protest to halt the export of live horses to Japan for slaughter, where horsemeat is a delicacy and often served raw. “Horses have shaped this country. They have carried us on their backs and plowed our fields,” says Arden. “Like dogs and cats, they are our companions. We don’t need to treat them this way.”
The protest was organized by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC) and took place at the Calgary International Airport where the protesters gathered as several horses were placed on crates to be flown to Japan. According to the latest information available from Statistics Canada, 2,720 live horses were exported in 2019 from Alberta, and of these animals, 1,449 were shipped to Japan.
During the protest Arden told Global News, “We can hear some very beautiful horses… kicking in crates already,” she said. “They haven’t even left the Calgary airport yet. They’ve got two days in turbulence on an aircraft. No food. No water. Not knowing what the hell is happening ‒ and a very unhappy ending.”
Arden and the CHDC are imploring the government to end live shipments of horses to slaughter without delay. Veterinarian Dr. Judith Samson-French, who also attended the protest, said in a press statement, “It is unconscionable that up to four large draft horses are crammed into wooden crates for export purposes. They are deprived of food and water, and sometimes arrive at their destination injured or dead.”
The CHDC initiated a lawsuit against the federal government in 2018, alleging that two Sections of the Health of Animals Regulations (specifically to do with segregation and headroom requirements) were routinely violated with the shipments. When this legal challenge was lost in December 2019, the CHDC launched an appeal and is waiting to be informed of an appeal date.
New transport regulations compiled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and effective February 20, 2020, did away with segregation and headroom requirements for horses (a two-year grace period covers only allowable transport times for all species of animals, which also means that until 2022 horses can be in transit for up to 36 hours without food, water, and rest). With the enactment of these regulations, horses can now legally be forced into crowded crates with their heads coming into contact with the tops of the containers. The new regulations, insist the protesters, are completely unacceptable, in violation of international standards set out by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and modified to appease industry – not to adhere to good animal welfare practices.
The CFIA told Global News it takes animal welfare seriously and is “committed to the humane transport of animals.” The agency also said that a “CFIA inspection includes evaluating the health status of animals as they arrive from their premises of origin and observing the loading process into acceptable crates for proper transport.”
This video was captured by a Voice for Animals representative, Karin Nelson:
You can help end this inhumane transport of horses! Write and/or request an in-person or phone meeting with your Member of Parliament. Letters to Prime Minister Trudeau (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau (Marie-Claude.Bibeau@parl.gc.ca) are also encouraged. To find your MP, please visit: https://www.ourcommons.ca/members/en.
For more information and to donate or sign a petition to help end the slaughter of Canadian horses, click here.
To learn more about the shipments, please click here.
To donate to the CHDC’s legal challenge against the Canadian government and to stop the export of live horses to Japan and South Korea for slaughter, please click here.