‘The ultimate betrayal’: Winnipeg Humane Society calls for feds to ban live horse exportation

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Humane Society is calling on the federal government to put an end the export of live horses overseas to be slaughtered for meat – saying the practice is inhumane.

The humane society’s outcry is sparked by a video recorded at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in the early hours of Feb. 8. The video shows a number of crates containing horses on the tarmac waiting to be loaded on a plane during a cold snap.

The video shows a plane taxiing near the crates – which Brittany Semeniuk, the animal welfare consultant for the WHS, said could scare the horses, which have a higher sensitivity to noise than humans.

She said it is just one of many red flags popping up when it comes to the horse exportation.

“Canada was built on the backs of horses, we relied on horses for centuries to help us plow agricultural fields, to help us build the buildings and the railways and everything that you see today,” Semeniuk said.

“This is the ultimate betrayal that we are now just loading them up into airplanes and shipping them off to be slaughtered. It’s quite sad.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency – which oversees the exportation of animals – told CTV News the video shared by the WHS was a “routine export of live horses.”

“The horses that were recently exported from the Winnipeg airport live outdoors and are therefore acclimatized to Manitoba weather conditions,” a spokesperson for the CFIA told CTV News in an email.

“The loading of the crates at the airport was completed with oversight from a CFIA veterinarian and the crates were loaded onto the plane within two hours of being assembled on the tarmac.”

As for the sound concerns, they said the crates were an “acceptable distance” away from the plane when it taxied in for loading.

They said Health of Animals Regulations require all serious injuries or deaths that occur during the flight to be reported to the CFIA. None were for this flight, they said.

The CFIA said about 2,000 horses were exported from Canada to Japan in 2020.

They said air exports to Japan normally carry 90 to 100 horses depending on the weight and capacity of the plane.

“The shipments to Japan are for permanent export,” the CFIA spokesperson told CTV News. “The horses normally spend time in a feedlot in Japan before being slaughtered for human consumption.”

About 40,000 animals have been exported to Japan since 2013, according to CFIA, which said it is aware of five horse deaths related to the air shipments during this time.

Semeniuk said while the exportation is legal and follows regulations – she said it is time to have a discussion about the current legislation.

“Clearly, national organizations like the Winnipeg Humane Society have a differing opinion on what inhumane practices are and what is considered good welfare for these animals.”

Semeniuk said one of the issues the WHS has is the length of time horses are left in the crates, which she said can sometimes exceed 30 hours. Semeniuk said having the horses slaughtered in Canada would not necessarily solve the problem.

“Canada’s horse slaughter industry, because we have a national horse slaughter industry, is full of just as many welfare concerns,” she said. “So we would really just be putting these horses from one bad situation to the next.”

She said they want an outright ban on the horse exportation – it is a call that has been echoed by Canadian signer-songwriter Jann Arden, who took to Twitter this week calling for an end to the practice in a series of tweets.

The WHS asked people to speak with their MPs to request the practice of horse exportation in Canada be banned.

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