Changing Our Laws To Reflect Our Societal Views: Advocating To End Horse Slaughter In Canada

By Suzana Gartner & Krista Staley

BBQs in the summer are a time for family and friends to reunite and enjoy the outdoors. However, last summer consumers may have noticed that their favorite sausages were off the shelves in the grocery stores. During this time, over 100 sausages were tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA”) to check the validity of the meat label. The research found that 1 in 5 sausages contained different meat than labelled, including horse meat. However, the CFIA responded to the results saying they were “not surprised,” downplaying the incident as an ‘oversight’.[1] Some grocery stores responded to the claims by promoting sausages and having a free BBQ outside the entrances. But what does this CFIA ‘oversight’ mean for the horse meat industry in Canada and how we treat and protect horses?

Unlike the majority of farmed animals, horses are not bred specifically for the horse meat industry. Like your cat or dog, majority of horses are raised as companion animals, so the question remains: How do these once beloved animals end up at auction yards and kill pens to be sold to slaughter houses? And the answer is that it’s a game of vulnerability. When it becomes clear that the original owners can no longer care for the animal (the horse is sick, old, or it’s no longer financially viable for continued care), profiteers see that as an opportunity to exploit owners to believe that the humane decision is to inadvertently help support and sustain the horse meat industry.[2]

In Canada, the horse meat industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise bringing in over 80 million dollars per year from exports alone, specifically exports to Japan and Europe.[3] Canada currently houses four federally licensed slaughter houses, two in Alberta and two in Quebec[4], that are inspected by the CFIA veterinarians that claim to ensure that all regulations under the guidelines of the Meat Inspection Act and the Meat Inspection Regulations are being enforced for the humane treatment of the horses.[5] However, undercover investigations on the treatment inside the slaughter houses and Canada’s unprogressive equine laws prove otherwise. Canada is one of the worst countries for animal transportation laws, and as one of the only countries that still ships live horses for slaughter the horses are suffering the consequences. The horses are overcrowded in tight wooden crates with 2-4 horses at a time[6], without access to food, water, or the ability to properly sleep for up to 36 hours.[7]

As Canada continues to operate this inhumane practice, the United States has effectively banned the industry by refusing any federal or commercial funding. However, speculation has surfaced over the strength of this ban.[8] As activist and politicians once lobbied for the initial ban of horse slaughters, they’re advocating once again to ensure the protection of horses through the enforcement of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act[9] as law. The SAFE Act will “prohibit the sale and transport of horse meat and horses intended for human consumption.”

Historically, horses have been considered a symbol of American culture, and the laws reflect this view.[10] However, the same can be said for the roles horses play in Canadian culture. For example, in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police horses are considered officers to ensure higher punishments if harmed. Unfortunately for Canadian animal welfare, our laws don’t reflect our societal views.

[1] CBC News, 1 in 5 sausages tested across Canada contained different meat than labelled, study finds, accessed from:

[2] A Humane Nation Kitty Block’s Blog, American equines do not deserve the horrors of slaughter, accessed from:

[3] Vueweekly, Canada’s multi-million dollar horse meat industry might be on the verge of change, accessed from:

[4] The Tyee, Putting Canada’s Horse Meat Industry Out to Pasture, accessed from:

[5] 1990 SOR 90-288.

[6] Vice, Tracking Canada’s Horse Slaughtering Trade from Alberta to Japan, accessed from:

[7] Animal Justice, Six Reasons Why the New Transport Rules Are Still Bad for Animals, accessed from:

[8] The Atlantic, The Troubled History of Horse Meat in America, accessed from:

[9] 2017 HR 113.

[10] Supra, note 2.