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Opinion: We need to stop shipping Canadian horses overseas for sushi

Horse sushi. Two words you likely did not associate together, yet that is exactly what is happening. Every year, thousands of live horses are crammed into small crates and shipped overseas where they are slaughtered and turned into sushi.

Japan is currently the biggest importer of Canadian horses, where millions of dollars a year are made from these shipments in order to feed a small percentage of wealthy individuals.

This is not a food issue, nor is it a cultural issue. Forcing gentle, sentient beings to endure a gruelling 10-12 hour overseas trip, without any food, water or rest, while being abnormally squeezed in small containers, is not only an animal cruelty issue—it is illegal. Often overlooked is the fact that the horses must endure at least another 10 hours in crates on the tarmac as they wait to be loaded onto the aircraft. In addition, they spend hours in transit to and from respective feedlots in Canada and overseas.

Since at least the year 2012, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) has been documenting blatant violations of Canada’s animal transportation laws that require large horses to be segregated from one another and to have sufficient headroom.

Jann Arden beside a well-loved draft horse to

show the size of the horses sent overseas (jannarden/Instagram)

Yet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) veterinary inspectors routinely certify that horse shipments comply with the law, even though they do not.

The CFIA admits it is not segregating horses, even though the legislation requires them to do so, and it says that even though horses’ heads touch the tops of crates, it is okay because the rooftop netting is not really a “roof.”

The reason the CHDC cares about this is because the specific animal transportation provisions are intended to protect animals during an already stressful and fearful situation for them. The minimal legal animal protection provisions that do exist should be followed. Government officials and government are not above the law.

We already know that horses have been injured and have died en route. The likely reason for this is that they are not being shipped properly. The horse industry that uses high-value horses for racing or shows is renowned for treating them like gold during transportation. They are transported in individual containers, have enough headroom to maintain proper balance, and are given food, water and rest. Why should “food” horses be treated any differently, and even worse, be treated like any other inanimate cargo?

Many of the exported horses destined for slaughter were bred for human consumption, while others have entered the slaughter pipeline from various farm environments. Some were companion animals, before being bought by kill buyers at “livestock” auctions. After years of service or companionship to people, their lives end in a slaughterhouse in a foreign country. It is tragic and heartbreaking.

CHDC is currently suing the CFIA over the way it transports horses overseas. The CHDC lost at the Federal Court level because, amongst other reasons, the judge found that the CFIA has discretion to enforce its regulations. The CHDC says that there is no such discretion in this case. The law is clear that veterinary inspectors have a mandatory duty to inspect and certify that horse shipments comply with the animal transportation regulations. By certifying that these shipments comply with the law, when they do not, means that the government is violating its own laws. It is mainly for this reason that the CHDC is appealing this case to the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada. If you are interested to learn more, and you are able to donate, please visit the CHDC website.

We realize that many people still do not know of the existence of this industry in Canada. We encourage you to reach out to your Member of Parliament and/or to the CFIA to express your concerns. The CHDC is also here to help you. Please send your questions to

Horses are depending on our collective compassion to end this brutal industry once and for all.

Originally published Nov 20 2020, 9:00 am

Written for Daily Hive by Sinikka Crosland and Rebeka Breder.

Crosland is President of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and on the Board of Animal Alliance of Canada. Breder is a full-time animal rights lawyer, in Vancouver, BC, and counsel for the CHDC in this current lawsuit.



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