For this year’s International Day to End Live Export of Animals, a prominent Calgary musician is lending her voice to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) so more people can hear about the cause.
Jann Arden has been a long-time animal rights advocate and has been involved with horse welfare for several years. But about two years ago, she said she learned about the export of live horses to different countries including Japan and South Korea and the cruelties they face from beginning to end.
CHDC president Sinikka Crosland said animals, in general, suffer greatly when they are exported live but she said it’s difficult for horses, as they are bigger and have the natural tendency to run.
“So many animals suffer and die in transport, but horses, in particular, they’re flight animals, they’re free animals. Their first instinct is to flee and get away from whatever is harming them,” she said.
“When in transit, they’re placed in these small wooden crates without food, water and rest and they can be in there for over 28 plus hours.”
These conditions prompted Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith to sponsor a petition asking the federal government to stop live horse exports. The petition is gaining traction, but the CHDC and Arden want more people to learn about the situation.
According to Crosland, horses meant for international export are purpose-bred in Canada, born and raised in feedlots in Alberta and Manitoba. Depending on which country is receiving the animals, that country sends an inspector and selects which horses they want.
The rest of the horses not selected for export are slaughtered and sold domestically.
Overall, the process is cruel, Crosland said, a sentiment Arden echoed.
“Myself, like pretty much 99 per cent of Canadians and other people on the planet who hear about shipping a horse in a plane, sealed in a box with no food or water, it’s shocking,” Arden said.
She said it’s a hypocritical way of dealing with horses, where they star in iconography, tourism advertising and events like the Calgary Stampede, while some are treated with cruelty from birth until slaughter.
“It’s just appalling. It’s one of those things that really bothers me and steals my sleep: that live, young draft horses are forced into these crates, they’re terrified and they’re shipped a world away to feed rich people raw sashimi,” she said.
“It’s not even food for the everyday man. It’s not putting food on the table of the hardworking Japanese family. This is a very elitist food.”
She said they are not telling people what to eat but rather to realize the cruelty with which their food is produced.
“(Live) export is a shard of Canadian agriculture that we feel is avoidable, stoppable, unnecessary, terrifying, cruel and inhumane,” she said.
“I don’t want people to be passive… I don’t want people to think others will do the signing for them.
“Just click the button. It takes 60 seconds. If you could save something and you knew this action could save these horses from a bad ending, wouldn’t you want to do it? I would.”