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Live horses being transported from Calgary to Japan for slaughter in September, 2017.Canadian Horse Defense Coalition

Imagine this: Cute little dogs being bred on farms for the sole purpose of being shipped overseas to be slaughtered and fed as a delicacy to the rich.

But before they reach their final destination, before they are killed and butchered, they are stuffed into small wooden crates (up to four animals crowded in the tiny enclosure) for the often bumpy, terrifying 8,000 km journey – going without food and water for up to 25 to 30 hours.

Imagine if Canadians found out this practice was taking place.

We would collectively go ballistic and demand it be immediately shut down. And any government that hoped to get re-elected would act instantly. They wouldn’t take months or years. It would be shut down overnight.

So, what is the difference then between dogs and horses? Why does this country allow draft horses, think beautiful Clydesdales or Belgians among others, to be purpose bred on disgusting feed lots in Alberta and Manitoba, loaded into crates (as 18-month-olds) and sometimes forced to wait on tarmacs in minus 30C degree weather, before being loaded into the cargo bay of some plane and shipped off for slaughter?

It is beyond comprehension that Canada still allows a practice that the U.S. shut down 17 years ago.

“It is something we should be ashamed of as a country,” says Jann Arden. Yes, that Jann Arden – singer, comic actress, and, when it comes to this issue, foaming-at-the-mouth activist.

When I reach Ms. Arden, she is in Newfoundland for a couple of shows. She has doubtlessly moved on to other locales by now. But wherever she goes, she makes sure to talk about this issue. “Until the government stops this, whoever the government is, I will keep talking about it. I will talk about it until my death.”

Horses are still being exported for slaughter. Will Trudeau take action?

You might remember the 2021 election, when then-federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole announced his party, if elected, would ban puppy mills. Extremely popular initiative. The Liberals, perhaps sensing they needed to come up with something akin to the puppy mills – and fast – announced they would outlaw the practice of shipping horses to Japan for slaughter.

The Liberals got elected and Justin Trudeau put this promise in his December 2021 mandate letter to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. But so far, nothing. Just more of the same; the government, we’re told, is talking to interested stakeholders. These things take time. Blah, blah, blah. No, the fact is, it’s simply not a priority. If it was, it would have ended months, if not years ago.

It’s not like this issue has just surfaced.

If Canadians watched videos of how these poor animals are treated, if they stopped and imagined for a moment what it must be like for them in the cargo bay, in the dark, crowded into these terrible crates that are too small for them to lie down in, citizens would demand this appalling practice be halted immediately.

If they could see what it’s like for these poor creatures when the plane encounters turbulence and they are tossed around, undoubtedly screaming in terror, people would be enraged.

No wonder it’s not unknown for these horses to die in flight.

“From beginning to end it’s disgraceful,” Ms. Arden tells me. “These meat inspectors come from Japan, go to these feed lots, take a look at the horses and put a big, fat X on the rear ends of the horses they want. It’s awful.”

The horse meat is served raw in Japan, cut up for sashimi. It means the time from the horse’s death to the moment their meat is served in some of Japan’s finest restaurants is short.

According to the U.S.-based Animal Legal & Historical Center, bolt guns are used during the slaughtering process to render the animal insensible to pain and at the same time leave the brain stem intact so the heart continues to pump, which assists in a quicker bleed out of the animal before the butchering process begins.

According to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, 14,500 horses have been shipped to their death in the last five years. And with each day that goes by, it becomes more apparent that there was no real intention to ban this despicable practice. It was a ploy, a stunt to negate the goodwill the federal Tories were generating on the campaign trail with their puppy mill announcement. You can imagine the panic at Liberal HQ when it happened.

What can we can counter with? How about the horse slaughter? Perfect. Let’s go with that.

People are cynical enough about our politics, as it is. They don’t need another reason to distrust our politicians or the political process.

The federal Liberals need to end this horrible, horrible practice now. The time for consulting and looking into it is over. It’s animal cruelty of the worst kind and something this country should not be associated with in any way.

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