Original language of petition: English
Petition to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Live horses are shipped by air from Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg to Japan for human consumption as a raw delicacy;
- The journey from feedlots in Canada to those in Japan commonly takes more than 24 hours, and can lawfully take up to 28 hours, during which time horses are deprived of food, water, and rest;
- Horses panic easily, have strong fight or flight instincts, and have extremely sensitive hearing;
- Horses are flown from Canada to Japan in cramped wooden crates;
- Transport from Canada to Japan causes horses to experience significant stress and puts them at risk of injury, illness, and even death during transport;
- Since 2010, the NDP has introduced three private members’ bills in an effort to ban the live export of horses for slaughter;
- The Liberal Party of Canada committed to banning the live export of horses for slaughter in its September 1, 2021, election campaign platform;
- In his December 16, 2021, mandate letter to the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directed the Minister to deliver on the commitment to “ban the live export of horses for slaughter;” and
- According to Statistics Canada, since September 2021, more than 2,000 horses have been shipped by air from Canada to Japan for slaughter for human consumption.
Government response tabled
Response by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, PC, MP
The Government of Canada is strongly committed to the humane treatment and handling of animals throughout all life stages, and recognizes that this issue is of great concern to those who are signatories to this petition. Under the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR), updated and strengthened requirements related to the humane transport of animals came into effect in February 2020. The HAR had not been updated since the 1970s and one of the intents of that update was to establish clear transport requirements based on the most recent data to better reflect the needs of animals with a view to improve the welfare of animals during transportation.
In Canada, the humane treatment and handling of livestock throughout the production cycle is protected by a combination of provincial and federal laws and regulations. More precisely, conformity to the norms on animal care on farms falls under provincial jurisdiction, while animal welfare during transport is within the federal government’s jurisdiction. For horses exported for slaughter, they are typically sourced from multiple producers, mostly from Western Canada, and then raised, fed, cared for, and maintained, for a period of time prior to export. These horses are transported from feedlots to the airport where they are handled and loaded onto planes. Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinary inspectors are present for each air shipment to certify the export, as required by the Health of Animals Act.
Horses are then transported by air to the importing country, notably Japan, and horses that are exported from Canada for slaughter are subject to the same regulations as horses shipped for other uses, such as breeding or international sporting events. For every shipment, all participants are required to meet all Canadian and international standards. Once in Japan, Japanese authorities are then responsible for their own regulatory oversight. Typically, the horses are further fed and maintained in Japan for months to years prior to slaughter.
The HAR remains in place to regulate the humane transport of animals. All those involved in transporting animals, either directly or indirectly, have the responsibility to assess the animals for fitness, prepare and load only animals that are fit for the intended journey, and then protect them from suffering, injury, or death during transport. Responsible transporters must all adhere to regulations and standards, for example, by respecting the floor space for horses travelling in groups set by the International Air Transportation Association to avoid crowding.
While the revised HAR ensures a robust system of laws and regulations are in place to protect animal welfare, the Government of Canada recognizes that concerns continue to be raised regarding the export of horses for slaughter. The Government of Canada has heard the views expressed by concerned Canadians and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food remains committed to ban the export of live horses for slaughter, as communicated in the Minister’s mandate letter.
To achieve the implementation of this commitment, the Government of Canada is actively working to ensure due diligence is conducted. The Government of Canada must consider the perspectives of all stakeholders who may be affected by its decisions and ensure that adjustments to policies or laws are informed by science and are effective.
Based on recent data available publicly from Statistics Canada, in 2022, Canada exported approximately 2600 horses for slaughter, all to Japan, with a total value of $19 million. The majority of the horses are exported from the province of Alberta, along with some exports from Ontario and Manitoba. There is limited detailed data on the horse export sector, but initial consultations indicate it involves hundreds of producers, as well as other actors along the transportation and export supply chain. The Government continues to refine its understanding of the sector and implications to producers who raise horses for the export market.
The Government values the perspectives of all stakeholders and remains committed to working collectively with them to advance the work underway to meet the mandate letter commitment. This includes, but is not limited to, engagement with animal rights advocacy groups, provincial governments, industry representatives, and Indigenous business owners and organizations to obtain information and their point of view regarding this issue. Engagements are ongoing and continue to be actively pursued to broaden the scope of the consultation process and strengthen the Government’s understanding of the issue.
Also, the Government is currently exploring the legal and policy framework for a ban on live horse exports for slaughter. This complex issue touches on a number of key considerations, including legal obligations, international trade commitments and relations, acts and regulations involving animals more broadly, and mechanisms for implementation and enforcement. The Government is performing its due diligence to minimize potential unintended consequences related to any changes in policies or laws, taking into account such issues as the risks to international trade commitments, impacts on producers’ livelihoods, and interaction with any existing laws or regulations. This includes economic and legal analysis, as well as conducting an international scan and examining approaches in other jurisdictions.
Prior to the ban of the live export of horses for slaughter, the CFIA continues, in the meantime, to inspect all live horse shipments before export by air to verify that the horses are fit to travel and are transported in accordance with the Health of Animals Act and the HAR. This includes adherence to the feed, water, and rest provisions of the HAR. In addition, container construction requirements and stocking density required by the Live Animal Regulations of the International Air Transport Association of Canada must be met.
To conclude this answer, the Government would like to thank petitioners for this opportunity to reiterate that the Government takes the issue of animal welfare seriously. We remain engaged in working diligently to implement the mandate letter commitment to ban the live export of horses for slaughter.
- Open for signature
- November 9, 2022, at 10:50 a.m. (EDT)
- Closed for signature
- February 7, 2023, at 10:50 a.m. (EDT)
- Presented to the House of Commons
February 13, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01137)
- Government response tabled
- March 29, 2023
Member of Parliament
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.
|Province / Territory||Signatures|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||158|
|Prince Edward Island||166|