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The Prime Minister's Office says a bill brought forward by Liberal Tim Louis will fulfill an election pledge to ban live horses being flown abroad for slaughter to make basashi, a horse-meat sashimi served in high-end restaurants.Canadian Horse Defence Coalition/Supplied

The Prime Minister’s Office is supporting a bill brought forward by an MP Tuesday to ban the transport of live horses to Japan for slaughter to make a raw horse-meat delicacy.

It said a bill brought forward by Liberal Tim Louis will fulfill an election pledge to ban live horses being flown abroad for slaughter to make basashi, a horse-meat sashimi served in high-end restaurants.

Animal-welfare groups have accused the government of backpedalling on the promise, saying thousands of horses have been exported to Japan since Justin Trudeau mandated the Agriculture Minister to “ban the live export of horses for slaughter” in 2021.

The publication of the bill followed a meeting in July between Mr. Trudeau and singer-songwriter Jann Arden, who has been at the forefront of a campaign to end the export of live horses to Japan.

Ms. Arden said the Prime Minister had told her using a private member’s bill would be a faster way to get the law changed.

Animal-welfare groups and campaigners have been calling on Canada for years to follow the lead of the United States and Britain and ban the export of live horses for slaughter. More than 36,000 people signed a petition to the House of Commons calling for an end to the practice.

“We have been working tirelessly for many years for the opportunity to show Canadians that this is an unnecessary and incredibly cruel business,” Ms. Arden said.

Mr. Louis’s bill would also outlaw the export of live horses to be fattened for slaughter. Those found guilty of exporting live horses for slaughter would face a fine of up to $250,000 or a two-year jail term.

Annie Cullinan, spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said his department will work with Mr. Louis “every step of the way” during the passage of his bill.

In the past five years, more than 14,500 large horses – including draft horses – have been flown from Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg to Japan, with a value of almost $93-million, according to Statistics Canada.

The horses are specially bred on farms in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, and transported by road to airports and then flown by Korean Air to Japan in crates.

Sinikka Crosland, president of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, said the horses are around two years of age when they are slaughtered so their meat is tender and fresh and can be eaten raw. She said she was “thrilled” by the bill’s introduction.

Private members’ bills struggle to become law without government backing and need time in the parliamentary calendar to complete their required stages. But the Prime Minister’s Office signalled Tuesday it would carve out the time to speed the bill through the Commons.

“We promised in 2021 to ban the live export of horses for slaughter, and we remain committed to getting this done. Tim Louis, the member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga, has introduced a private member’s bill to help fulfill that promise,” said Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, spokeswoman for the Prime Minister. “Banning the export of live horses for slaughter remains a priority for us.”

Mr. Louis, a member of the standing committee on agriculture, said he had been canvassing opinion in the House of Commons and that his bill had support from all parties, including Conservative MPs.

Alistair MacGregor, NDP agriculture critic, sponsored the petition calling on the government to end the practice and said he was glad “the work the NDP has done alongside advocates on the petition has paid off.”

Kayako IIda, first secretary at the Japanese embassy, said: “Japan well recognizes the importance of animal welfare and hopes that the needed trade will continue by transport measures that meet international standards.”

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