Canada's Unwanted Horses: Is Slaughter Really The Solution?
Recent media reports have highlighted the financial stress horse owners and business owners are feeling in the face of the CoVid-19 pandemic. In the past few months, a number of distraught owners have had no option but to sell their horses, or take them to auction where they risk going for slaughter. We at the Winnipeg Humane Society believe that more resources must be in available, to provide support for Canada’s horses and their owners, especially in times of crisis.
As mentioned above, horse auctions occur across Canada and the United States, with Manitoba holding roughly 4 horse sales each year. Auctions serve as the primary method of acquiring horses for Canada’s horse slaughter industry, where 30,000-60,000 horses are processed annually. Any sort of horse can be brought to auction and purchased by the meat buyer. Geriatric horses, pregnant mares, miniature horses, blind horses, compromised horses, companion horses, ex-race horses, etc. all run risk of being purchased for meat. With no means to socially distance at auction marts lately, some have chosen to forego their public horse sales, and have consigned horses directly to meat buyers. Seen by some as a solution to Canada’s unwanted horse population, Canada’s horse slaughter industry provides literally any horse the option of being slaughtered for meat.
Dubbed man’s original best friend, humans relied heavily on the sheer power and strength of horses for centuries. Despite shifting to companion and performance roles in the 20th century, the federal Criminal Code of Canada, and Manitoba’s Animal Care Act still classify horses as livestock. There is no federal or provincial legislation to regulate the breeding of horses either. The National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice For Horses document is not legally binding, and simply recommends ‘responsible breeding practices’ be followed. Unlike our dog and cat companions, It is incredibly common practice for horses to be bought and sold, despite the average horse seeing 3-4 owners within their lifetime. Whether breeding for the perfect performance horse, race horse or for lineage, there is estimated to be roughly 1 million horses currently in Canada.
Again, the Winnipeg Humane Society believes efforts must be focused on preventative measures. Canada needs to introduce and pass legislation to regulate the horse breeding industry, and current legislation must be amended to protect horses as companion animals, not livestock. Humane euthanasias should also be subsidized so that compromised horses no longer find themselves at auction. Lastly, an abundance of supportive resources are needed to encourage owners to keep their horse for it’s entire lifespan. Simply put, if there are no unwanted horses in Canada, there will be no horse slaughter industry. After relying on horses so heavily for centuries, isn’t it time for us to return the favour and ensure they can rely on us to care for every step of the way?
Please join us in writing to the Minister of Agriculture, asking the Honourable Marie Claude-Bibeau to support proposed legislation to regulate Canada’s breeding of horses and reduce the number of unwanted horses within our country. We have provided a sample template of a letter you can send to the Minister here: Minister of Ag Letter Horse Slaughter.