‘Completely inhumane’: Animal rights group set to present petition against Canadian horse meat industry

CALGARY — On the final day before the document is sent to the House of Commons, organizers of a petition aimed at ending the practice of exporting live horses from Canada to the rest of the world says more than 75,000 people have signed.

The non-profit Canadian Horse Defence Coalition continues its fight to stop the practice of exporting and slaughtering live horses for human consumption.

Friday was the last day to sign a federal petition that will be presented to the federal government and the group is calling on Canadians for support.

Canada has become the leading horse meat supplier and distributor, exporting more than 4,800 live horses each year. Most of the live horses are shipped to Japan, where they are slaughtered to produce thinly sliced horse flesh called basashi, a popular delicacy.

Award-winning Canadian singer Jann Arden has been a big advocate of horses for decades and has joined the battle to stop live horse exportation and slaughter.

“Canada is one of the biggest horse meat providers on the globe,” said Arden. “It’s completely inhumane and completely unacceptable. They are loaded into small wooden crates three to four at a time and we are talking 17 hands high – these horses are massive.”

Arden says the animals are flown out of airports in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg and are done overnight.

“They have no food and no water. There are feces and urine all over each other and they are terrified,” she said.

The president of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition has been trying to bring attention to this issue since 2012 but says their cause didn’t take off until Arden got involved.

“Jann is the wings beneath the winds of this movement,” said Sinikka Crosland.

Crosland says through their research, between 2008 and 2013, 12 horses have died while being transported live on the airplanes to Asia. The activist says the large draft horses are crammed into crates with not enough head room and once they are in the air, their level of care is out of the country’s hands.

“Our animal welfare laws don’t cover over there,” said Crosland. “Once they are over there that’s it and they’re just at the mercy of the laws or lack there of at that end and Canada just wipes its hands of that.”

The group launched a petition which was endorsed by MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. There are more than 76,500 signatures.

In a statement, Erskine-Smith says, “the live shipment of horses for slaughter is unnecessary and cruel, and our government should end the practice. I’m thankful for the tens of thousands of Canadians who have raised their voices and it’s now up to the government to listen and act.”

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition sued the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for violating animal transportation laws but lost the case.

CTV News spoke to Bill desBarres with Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada who defends the treatment of the horses and animals in Canada.

“Everything is inspected before they leave the ground here by the CFIA and the whole trip from barn to barn in one country to the other is within the regulations of the CFIA,” said desBarres.

Furthermore he is concerned the petition, if accepted by Ottawa, will have an adverse affect on the livestock industry as a whole.

“If this letter or petition becomes a precedent for one species for the livestock sector what’s the next species that will be attacked?”

The CFIA says measures are taken to ensure the animals are comfortable and not over crowded. Furthermore, it says in a statement that “exporters and transporters must not exceed 28 hours without feed, water or rest for the horses.”

Crosland says those measures aren’t enough. She says Erskine-Smith will present the petition to the House of Commons and then they will wait to hear back from the federal agriculture minister. She says regardless of the outcome, they will still fight.

“We are planning on pressing ahead we are not going to go away. More MPs will be hearing from us and we will keep this issue in the forefront,” she said.

For more information on the petition visit www.horseshit.ca or canadianhorsedefencecoalition.org.

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