The practice is legal in Canada, unlike the United States
Walking through the Calgary International Airport, you’ll pass a bronze statue of wild horses running.
Entitled “Breakaway,” the immortalized horses were intended to be a metaphor for Calgary’s spirit and strength.
But there’s another story of horses at the Calgary airport, a story some veterinarians are calling a “huge animal welfare issue.”
For years, animal advocacy groups like the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) have opposed the transport of live draft horses to Japan for slaughter. In Canada, alongside Mexico and parts of Europe, this practice is legal, unlike countries like the US where horse slaughterhouses are banned.
Horse meat is a delicacy in Japan, and places like Kumamoto specialize in fresh dishes like basashi—horse sashimi. Horse oil is also a sought after beauty product in Hokkaido, where it’s used to treat wrinkles, acne, and sunburns.
Slaughtering and selling horse meat has been outlawed in the US, whereas in Canada, there are four active federal slaughterhouses producing horse meat for human consumption—two of which are in Alberta.
While most of Canada’s horse meat is exported to countries around the world, horse meat is still locally available, especially in Quebec.
Canada is one of the only countries in the world still shipping live horses for slaughter, most are destined to be butchered in Japan, which is now Canada’s number one importer of live horses.
While groups like the CHDC had hoped to see horse exports decline over the years, recent data from Statistics Canada show 1,350 live horses exported as a commodity to Japan between January and March 2017, a batch valued at more than $2.6 million.
Local horse producers, including mass operations like Bouvry Exports in Calgary, ship thousands of horses each year by plane, a business that pulls in millions for Canadian exporters.
According to data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the 6,976 live horses shipped to Japan for slaughter in 2014 generated more than $13 million. Between 2012 and 2014, upwards of $30 million in Canadian dollars were seen from the export of more than 14,000 horses.
The number of live horses shipped from Canada to Japan has dropped since January, but prices per horse have increased; according to Statistics Canada, the average price per horse in February 2017 was $1,451, compared to March’s average of $4,136…(CONTINUED)