Giving A Voice To Silenced Horses

            Horses are gentle, intelligent, majestic, and loyal creatures who have served human needs for centuries. There is a special and trusting bond that exists between horses and their human guardians. However, the current state of the law in Canada and the USA betrays this special relationship. In Canada, selling horses for slaughter and their consumption remains legal and the story of Sargon the horse is a real-world example of this betrayal. Sargon lived in Lindsey, Ontario with his caregiver who could no longer care for him and ended up being given up to their neighbour who represented themselves as individuals who had a caring and loving home for him. The original caregiver even made efforts to ensure that the new home would be suitable for Sargon before completely transferring him to his new forever home. Unfortunately, the new caregivers had no intention of caring for Sargon and sold him for slaughter never to be seen again.

The current state of the law forbids the slaughter of horses for their meat across the United States. Unfortunately, however, this attempt to stop the slaughter of horses for consumption has possibly made it worse. Since it is illegal to slaughter, sell, or even buy horse meat in America, hundreds of thousands of horses over the years have been shipped from the States to countries like Canada and Mexico where it is legal to slaughter them for their meat. In fact, around 100,000 horses are exported out of the States every single year.[1]

            During transit, these horses suffer degrading and horrific conditions. They are driven for hours upon hours without food, water, or rest. In many instances, they acquire quite severe injuries through this process.[2] Once at the slaughter house, the problem is exacerbated by the methods used to incapacitate the horses to prepare them for slaughter. Often, multiple blows are rendered to the horse to make them unconscious and sometimes they are fully awake during the process!

            The problem is not just with this extremely inhumane procedure in which the horses are transported and killed. The horses that are transported out of the States are not raised for human consumption and throughout their lives are pumped with drugs that are prohibited by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for use in animals intended for human consumption.[3] Not only does the current state of the law allow for horses to be moved to other jurisdictions where it is legal to horrifically slaughter them, but the result is that toxic meat is being sold and served to humans.

In response to these issues, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act was introduced on January 30th this year. If brought into force, the SAFE Act would forbid the transport of American horses out of the United States.[4] If this Act comes into force, many unwanted horses can in fact be saved.

Unfortunately, there are many ways in which a horse can become unwanted and therefore more vulnerable to being slaughtered to satisfy foreign meet market demands. Horses can become unwanted due to lack of training, if they have any medical or genetic conditions that render them useless, due to old age, and many other reasons.[5] A horse can become unwanted if an owner suffers economic challenges and simply cannot care for their horse or horses any longer.

What is important to realize is that for any number of reasons, a horse can end up in a situation where they are abandoned or even given up to seemingly caring individuals with displayed intentions to care for the horse, just to turn their back and sell them for slaughter – just like what happened to Sargon the horse. Tragic stories like this happen every single year to horses who are transitioning into new homes.

Luckily, there are groups working towards bringing inhumane practices against horses to an end. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) is an organization that strives to shed light on the horrific practices that horses are subjected to. The CHDC has called upon the House of Commons to make changes to prohibit the exportation and slaughter of horses for their meat, specifically by amending the Health of Animals Act.[6]

Currently, there is no law preventing individuals from shipping horses out of the United States to be slaughtered for meat. As such, there is more need than ever for SAFE to pass into law. If passed, it would act as a strong deterrent for taking part in this horrific industry. In fact, violators of this act would be subject to a fine of $1,000 and possibly serve up to one year in prison.[7] Also, repeat offenders would have fine increases to $10,000 and serve up to three years in prison.

Anyone can help ensure SAFE passes by simply writing to your politicians to show your support for this legislation. Even by simply sharing the proposed SAFE legislation on social media can increase its exposure! Canadians also need to help ensure that similar legislation is brought into force in Canada. Not only should Canada ban slaughter of horses for meat, Canada should also ban the exportation of horses for the purposes of slaughter to avoid what has been and is happening in the US! In fact, by simply banning the slaughter of horses in Canada, this would only exacerbate the problem. Instead of being slaughtered here, the horses would be shipped down into Mexico where it is still legal. Also, by only banning slaughter in Canada and not banning exporting, many horses will still perish in Japan. According to Statistics Canada, although there has been a decline in demand in recent years, over 1300 horses have been exported to Japan just between January and March of 2017, “a batch valued at more than $3.5 million”.[8] These horses are typically raised solely for meat in remote Alberta farms and once they are ready to be shipped, they are taken to the Calgary airport and loaded into crates sometimes four at a time.[9] What’s worse is that these horses remain in these crates for sometimes up to 26 hours until they land in Japan to be slaughtered.[10] In order to stop this from happening, Canada needs to implement legislation similar to that of SAFE in the US to ban the exportation of live horses for purposes of slaughter for human consumption. By writing to politicians in Canada expressing a need for this, anyone can help make this dream a reality in Canada as it soon will be in the US.

There are many other things that we can do to help unwanted horses become wanted again! Michelle Anderson, Digital Managing Editor for, provided several ways that people can help! Horse owners (“guardians”) can plan out retirement plans for their horses as a way of having a back-up plan in the event things change. Also, anyone can volunteer at rescue sanctuaries to help train, adopt, and handle horses. Also, every penny counts; by donating to a reputable organization who supports horses in transition, anyone can save a life! In addition, horse owners should ensure that their young horses develop and maintain solid training foundations from the gecko! Although much has been done to improve the lives of horses, much more help from everyone, individually and collectively, is needed.

[1] 10News Staff. “Bill Would Ban Horses from Being Taken to Mexico or Canada for Slaughter.” 10NEWS, 4 Feb. 2019,

[2]  Amundson, Sara, and Kitty Block . “Bipartisan Bill Introduced in Congress to End Slaughter of American Equines · A Humane World.” A Humane World, 5 Feb. 2019,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Anderson, Michelle N. “Homeless Horses: An Update on Unwanted Horses in the United States – The Horse.” The Horse, 9 Oct. 2018,

[6] Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, “New E-petition Calling on the House of Commons to Prohibit Horse Slaughter” (2016), online: <>.

[7] Supra n.1.

[8] Brooks, Anna. “Tracking Canada’s Horse Slaughtering Trade from Alberta to Japan.” Vice, VICE, 15 June 2017,

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.