B.C. campaign seeks to end Canada's shipping of horses overseas for slaughter

Horses are seen in crates in this undated image. (Canadian Horse Defense Coalition)

A B.C.-based campaign is hoping to end a Canadian industry that breeds, raises and transports horses overseas for slaughter.

According to the BC SPCA, Canada is one of the few countries in the world that still has this practice. The animal welfare agency says more than 40,000 horses have been exported from Canada since 2013.

While a transport law was recently changed, the trips can still take more than a full day, the SPCA says.

"Canada recently updated their transport laws, which previously allowed horses to be transported for 36 hours at a time," said BC SPCA’s Melissa Speirs, manager of farm animal welfare, in a news release.

"Canada's current animal transport laws are still inadequate. It is currently legal for horses to be transported without feed, water, or rest for up to 28 hours."

Now, the animal welfare agency has launched an online petition it plans to submit to the federal government in the hope of ending the transport of the animals.

"The BC SPCA strongly advocates that no animal should be transported without feed, water, or rest for more than eight hours, and that horses should not be shipped by plane under these cramped and stressful conditions," Speirs said.

The BC SPCA says the horses are first transported by trucks to Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg airports where they can sometimes sit on the tarmac for hours before being loaded. As many as four horses can be put in one crate, the agency says.

"With such close quarters, horses can easily injure one another or lose their balance and be unable to get back up," Speirs said.

As animals that have evolved to graze, horses in these conditions are at higher risk for some painful and life-threatening conditions, the SPCA says.

According to an open letter submitted by 10 animal welfare agencies to the federal government in April, the horses are most often shipped to Japan. The letter states more than 1,600 horses were sent from Canada to that country in 2020.

The petition is expected to be sent to the federal government after June 18.