Photo: Canadian Horse Defence Coalition
"Calgary Airport, Korean Air Cargo loading crates of horses for flight to Japan and S. Korea for slaughter"
The Animals in War Memorial, Ottawa, commemorates horses for their service to our country during times of war. If we are meant to celebrate and show respect for these magnificent animals, then why do we slaughter them in Canada and also transport them overseas to Japan and S. Korea for slaughter?
There are almost 400,000 people in Canada who have horses as companions. Horses are as cherished to humans as cats and dogs, whose suffering is not tolerated. Yet in 2021, more than 25,000 horses were slaughtered in Alberta and Quebec. Some of these horses were transported from the US, where horse slaughter ended in 2007. Most of their meat is frozen and exported overseas, but some is consumed in Canada and the US.
Horses slaughtered in Canada are unsuccessful race horses, retired competitive horses, sick or lame companion animals, an end-of-life option, horses bred for meat, and mares and foals from Premarin and Prempro industries. Some owners, no longer able to afford to care for their horses, take them to livestock auctions hoping to find a new home for them. Sadly, these horses are often bought by “kill buyers” who send them to slaughter. Horses sold into meat production may be transported directly to the slaughter facility or spend time in a feedlot to fatten up before slaughter.
In Canada, some farms breed and raise horses for the primary purpose of meat production. Horses raised for meat are meant for export. Japanese officials come regularly to Canada, to hand pick the draft horses that they would like imported for slaughter. The horses that are not chosen are slaughtered in Canada. Alberta is one of the world’s largest suppliers of horses for meat.
Meat horses spend their entire lives in barren feedlots before being sent for slaughter. There is minimal protection from extreme weather, little vet care, crowded conditions and minimal enrichment. Thousands of horses every year, are flown weekly from airports in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. The horses are confined in small wooden crates, 3 or 4 to a crate, on journeys that can take more than 20 hours, with no feed, water or rest. There isn’t enough headroom and no room to lie down or stretch. Some horses fall during take off and landing and are unable to stand. It is a fallacy that horse slaughter is humane. These horses are at the mercy of industry practices in the countries they are sent to.
In 2021, almost 2000 horses were shipped overseas for slaughter. Canada is one of the only countries in the world that does this. After his re-election in Sept. 2021, the Prime Minister vowed to keep his promise to end the shipment of horses overseas for slaughter. In Dec 2021, he sent a mandate letter to the minister of agriculture, instructing her to ban the live export of horses for slaughter. As of October 2022, nothing has been done.
The Premarin and Prempro industries produce drugs for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women. For all the animal welfare concerns mentioned below, this industry is almost identical to the dairy industry. The urine from pregnant mares is used to make these drugs, so just as in the dairy industry, the mares are artificially inseminated over and over again to become pregnant. During their 11-month pregnancy, they are confined in tiny stalls, fitted with a short tether, a harness and a urine collection bag. Because of these restrictive devices, the mares are immobile, unable to turn around or lie down comfortably. Two months before giving birth, they are removed from the “pee line”. They nurse their foals for about 4 months, then the foals are taken away and the mares are re-impregnated. Like cows, mares resist separation from their babies, so they are often whipped, kicked, or beaten with an electric prod until they comply. Male foals (colts), useless to the industry, are usually killed immediately or sent to a slaughter auction. Some female foals (fillies) are kept as replacements for their worn-out mothers, the rest are sent to slaughter. To farmers in this industry, the foals are worth less than the urine their mothers produce. When the mares can no longer conceive, they are also sent to slaughter.
In 2021, there were 18 farms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that had contracts with Pfizer, to collect pregnant mares’ urine. At that time there were 1300 mares on these farms.