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October 18, 2011

Horse Slaughter in Canada

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Running free. istock

With nearly 72,000 horses slaughtered in 2013 alone, Canada’s horse slaughter industry is among the largest in the world, and a shameful betrayal against our loyal companions.

Horses are slaughtered in Canada primarily to provide horse meat to European and Asian countries. Horses are brought to slaughter in every possible condition—old, young, sick, healthy, injured, and even pregnant. They are not all unwanted—often, their guardians can no longer afford to keep them, and bring the horses to auction hoping to find them a good home. But horribly, more than 50 percent of horses sold at rural auctions go to slaughter after being bought by “kill buyers.”

A terrible journey

Many times, horses are crammed in trailers designed for shorter animals and travel in uncomfortable positions over very long distances. Loading and unloading is extremely stressful and dangerous for horses as they are moved along the relatively steep ramps. Canadian animal transport standards are among the worst in the industrialized world. Current regulations allow horses to be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest.

Inhumane slaughter—NOT humane euthanasia

There have been many reported cases of animal welfare violations in Canadian horse slaughterhouses including failure to provide food and water, illegal unloading of animals, animals left for extended periods in kill pens and sick or injured animals denied veterinary care. Not surprisingly, veterinary experts around the world and leading animal protection groups have denounced horse slaughter as inhumane.

Once the horses are corralled into the slaughterhouse, the end is predictable—violent and bloody. Sometimes injured and emaciated, horses are beaten and electro-shocked in overcrowded pens and must endure the smell of blood and the sights and sounds of other horses in pain and being killed before they, too, are led into a kill chute.

Horse slaughterhouses use the same type of stalls and techniques as cattle slaughterhouses. These stalls are too wide for horses and the captive-bolt stun gun method used with cattle is ill-suited for horses. Horses are an extreme example of a flight animal. The panic and instinctive desire to escape they experience in the slaughterhouse causes them to thrash their heads frantically in the kill chute, making it difficult to effectively stun them prior to slaughter. Witnesses (and video footage) document horses subjected to a sharp blow to the head from the captive-bolt gun three or four times before they are rendered unconscious for exsanguination. In a recent investigation of carcasses discarded by a Canadian slaughterhouse, skulls of many horses processed for meat were found without any holes from a stun gun or rifle whatsoever!

Times are changing—time to ACT

With the closing of the remaining equine slaughter plants in the United States in 2007, the number of horses imported to Canada for slaughter has increased. There are now four equine slaughter plants in Canada, two in Quebec and two in Alberta. We need to act now to stop this growing climate of cruelty to horses in Canada!

What we’re doing

Horse slaughter is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed throughout North America. In 2008, for example, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers (D-MI)—along with Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN)—introduced the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008, which prohibits the slaughter of American horses for human consumption and their export for slaughter in other countries.

In Canada, HSI is working to achieve a federal ban on the horse slaughter industry that would end the slaughter, sale, transport and export of horses for human consumption. NDP Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko has introduced Bill C-571 which, if passed, can bring us a giant step closer to ending the cruel horse slaughter industry. Bill C-571 requires each horse sent to slaughter to be raised for human consumption and to be accompanied by a lifetime medical record, which will save countless horses from being slaughtered in Canada, because the majority of them are not raised for human consumption, and many have been administered substances that are banned from the food chain.

Learn more

Read the latest news about HSI's work on horse slaughter issues around the world and take action for horses in Canada.

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