as published at CTV News.com
“They are legally allowed to go up to 36 hours without food and water,”
Animal welfare advocates in Calgary say that live horses being shipped to Japan for human consumption are being treated inhumanely at the Calgary Airport, but the airport insists all rules are being followed.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition says a video its members shot recently shows horses being mistreated at the airport. They say the animals are kept in crates not tall enough for them to stand in. Thet also say the video shows de-icing fluid and jet blast from other planes drifting onto the crates as they’re loaded.
On Thursday, 15 protesters held a rally in front of Calgary’s Aero Space Museum, organized by CARE — the Calgary Animal Rights Effort — and the Lethbridge Animal Rights Effort. They waved signs that read “YYC flies horses to their death,” “Calgary’s Shame” and “Horse export is cruel.”
Maureen Hurly, with CARE, says horses are suffering during the long-haul flights and some have died en route.
“We’re concerned because of the inhumaneness of the entire operation from start to finish. They are legally allowed to go up to 36 hours without food and water,” she told CTV Calgary.
Hurly also brought her group’s concerns to the Calgary Airport Authority’s annual general meeting on Thursday.
Garth Atkinson, the president and CEO of the Calgary Airport Authority, told reporters that the airport authority has no jurisdiction over the handling of the horses; he says that’s a federal responsibility.
What’s more, he says, is the animals are treated well.
“As far as we know, everything takes place according to the law, and it’s very supervised and every complaint is looked into and addressed,” he said.
Hurly says she was disappointed by the airport authority’s reaction.
“I don’t feel like the airport wants to take any accountability for this at all. They just want to pass responsibility on to somebody else,” she said.
Live horse exports to Japan have jumped in recent years because of growing demand, rising from 2,200 animals in 2012 to 7,800 last year. As well, Canada exported 9,000 tonnes of already slaughtered horse meat, according to Agriculture Canada, to several countries, including Japan, Belgium and France.
Activists claim about 90 horses a week from Calgary are slaughtered in Japan to be used as raw sashimi, selling for about $25,000 a horse.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it inspects all air shipments of live horses and ensures they have food and water. It also reviews all complaints. The agency would not say whether any rules had been broken in the video shot by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.
New York-based Atlas Air, the cargo line that ships most of the animals, did not return a request by CTV Calgary for comment.