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e-4190 (Animals)

Initiated by Jann Arden from Calgary, Alberta

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.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to halt the live export of horses for slaughter, consistent with the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2021 election campaign commitment and the Minister’s December 16, 2021, mandate letter.

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
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford)
February 13, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01137)
Government response tabled
March 29, 2023
Photo - Alistair MacGregor
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia