Live horse export - BC SPCA
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Live horse export

Update:  Bill C-355 to ban live horse export of Canadian horses overseas for slaughter has reached an important milestone! The bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons and has now been sent to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for review. The Committee will be meeting on February 13 to discuss this bill.

You may have already signed petitions and written letters to your representatives on this issue, and we thank you for your continued support. Now is the time to keep pressure on the government to ban the export of horses from Canada for slaughter!

Please send another quick email to your Member of Parliament and members of the Agriculture Committee asking them to support the prompt passing of this bill.  Send a pre-written letter now!


Horse meat is eaten in many countries across the globe, including in Canada. Yet, Canada is one of the only countries in the world that breeds, raises, and transports horses overseas for slaughter to fill the demand for fresh horse meat. Gentle draft horses are raised in poor conditions and are exported by plane on journeys that can take more than 20 hours. Since 2013, more than 40,000 horses have been exported out of Canada. These horses are purpose bred for export, not sourced from auctions, as the importing countries have strict health standards. If live horse export is banned, it will stop the breeding of Canadian horses for this purpose.

Horses exported for slaughter are raised on feedlots in Western Canada. Feedlots are barren plots of land where horses are often not provided shelter or protection from the elements. There is minimal veterinary oversight and care provided.

Horses in a feedlot in Alberta, Canada.
Horses in a feedlot in Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

The horses’ long journey begins when they are transported by truck from the feedlot to the airport – usually in Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg. As prey animals with strong fight-or-flight instincts, horses are extremely sensitive to the unfamiliar stimuli they experience during transport. Unlike horses kept as companion animals or used for show or sport, horses destined for the meat industry are unaccustomed to being transported, so this can cause them significant distress.

At the airport, the horses may sit on the tarmac for hours before being loaded onto the plane. Before being loaded, three to four horses are put into a single shipping crate smaller than the average horse stall. Due to the limited space available to each horse, horses can easily injure one another or lose their balance and be unable to get back up. Current international airline transport regulations require horses to be able to stand in a comfortable position without coming into contact with the top of the crate, but eyewitnesses often report that crates are too short for the horses to stand comfortably without their ears touching or pushing through the top of the crate.

Horses in a shipping crate before being loaded onto the plane.
Horses in a shipping crate on the airport tarmac. Photo credit: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

Horses fly in these crates without feed, water, or rest for the entire journey. The flight is between 10 to 13 hours and may stop to refuel in Alaska, adding two to three hours to their long journey. For international export, the typical time without feed, water, and rest for these horses is 20 to 22 hours, but there have been cases recorded that exceed this. It is currently legal for horses to be transported without feed, water, or rest for up to 28 hours. The BC SPCA strongly advocates that no animal should be transported without feed, water, or rest for more than eight hours – and that no horses should be flown under such circumstances.

Horses are at an increased risk of injury, dehydration, and fatigue as journey duration increases. Horses are a species that has evolved to graze and would normally spend over 65 per cent of their day eating. When horses are not fed regularly, they are at a much higher risk for painful and life-threatening conditions such as gastric ulcers and colic and will show signs of stress.

Once the horses arrive at their final destination, they no longer fall under Canadian jurisdiction, so it is unclear how these horses are then treated.

Photo credit: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Developments in the fight to end Canada’s live horse export

2021

  • February 18 – Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) initiated a federal petition (e-3187) calling upon the government to stop air shipments of horses exported for human consumption, due to ongoing animal welfare concerns.
  • April 29 – BC SPCA joined the CHDC and other animal protection organizations in sending a letter to the federal government urging action on this issue.
  • June 18 – Petition e-3187 closed with a total of 77,684 signatures, making it the most-signed federal e-petition relating to animals in history.
  • June 22 – Petition e-3187 presented to the House of Commons by MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.
  • August 15 – The government was unable to table a response to the petition before Parliament was dissolved.
  • December 16 – Banning the live export of horses for slaughter was included in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

2022

  • November 9 – CHDC initiated another federal petition (e-4190) calling on the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to halt the live export of horses for slaughter, consistent with the Minister’s mandate letter.
  • November 15 – BC SPCA sent a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food asking about the status of their mandate to ban live horse export, requesting an updated timeline for banning the practice.

2023

  • February 7– Petition e-4190 closed with a total of 36,175 signatures.
  • February 13 – Petition e-4190 presented to the House of Commons by MP Alistair MacGregor.
  • March 29 – Government response to petition e-4190 was tabled, stating they are working to implement the mandate letter to ban live horse export.
  • June 21 – Senator Pierre Dalphond introduced Bill S-270 to Senate to prohibit live horse export.
  • September 19 – Tim Louis, M.P. introduced Private Member’s Bill C-355 to the House of Commons to prohibit the export of horses for slaughter. The Prime Minister’s Office has expressed their support for this bill.
  • November 20 – Bill C-355 was read for the second time and debated by our representatives in the House of Commons.

2024

  • January 31 – The second reading for Bill C-355 in the House of Commons was completed and passed the vote to be sent to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for consideration.

 

Photo credit: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition

Take action

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition has been at the forefront of this issue, and the BC SPCA has supported and will continue to support their work towards ending the live export of horses for slaughter.

Currently, we are asking our supporters to write a letter to their Member of Parliament, and the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food requesting they support the prompt passing of Private Member’s Bill C-355.

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