Tracking Canada’s horse slaughter trade from Alberta to Japan

'Breakway' by Robert Spaith was previously situated in the Domestic Terminal Building, but now graces the Arrivals Level in the new terminal. Image source: Calgary International Airport.
‘Breakway’ by Robert Spaith was previously situated in the Domestic Terminal Building, but now graces the Arrivals Level in the new terminal. Image source: Calgary International Airport.

HORSE SLAUGHTER. Source Article: VICE. By Anna Brooks (June 15, 2017) — Walking through the Calgary International Airport, you’ll pass a bronze statue of wild horses running.

Entitled “Breakaway,” the immortalized horses were intended to be a metaphor for Calgary’s spirit and strength.

But there’s another story of horses at the Calgary airport, a story some veterinarians are calling a “huge animal welfare issue.”

For years, animal advocacy groups like the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) have opposed the transport of live draft horses to Japan for slaughter. In Canada, alongside Mexico and parts of Europe, this practice is legal, unlike countries like the US where horse slaughterhouses are banned.

According to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents obtained by the CHDC and provided to VICE, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) banned shipping draft horses—a breed that can weigh more than a thousand pounds. Canadian Horse Defence Coalition image.
According to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents obtained by the CHDC and provided to VICE, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) banned shipping draft horses—a breed that can weigh more than a thousand pounds. Canadian Horse Defence Coalition image.

Horse meat is a delicacy in Japan, and places like Kumamoto specialize in fresh dishes like basashi—horse sashimi. Horse oil is also a sought after beauty product in Hokkaido, where it’s used to treat wrinkles, acne, and sunburns.

Slaughtering and selling horse meat has been outlawed in the US, whereas in Canada, there are four active federal slaughterhouses producing horse meat for human consumption—two of which are in Alberta.

While most of Canada’s horse meat is exported to countries around the world, horse meat is still locally available, especially in Quebec.

While groups like the CHDC had hoped to see horse exports decline over the years, recent data from Statistics Canada show 1,350 live horses exported as a commodity to Japan between January and March 2017, a batch valued at more than $2.6 million.

The number of live horses shipped from Canada to Japan has dropped since January, but prices per horse have increased; according to Statistics Canada, the average price per horse in February 2017 was $1,451, compared to March’s average of $4,136.

Read full article for more »

Take Action Canada

Prime Minister

Contact the Canadian Prime Minister and include in your personal message that (1) you are opposed to the live shipment of horses for the purpose of slaughter for human consumption and (2) to please see that existing regulations against the live transport of draft horses are enforced.

Health Minister

Contact the Health Minister who oversees the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and politely deliver the same message as above.

Please share everywhere. Let’s do this in numbers on behalf of these horses. Thank you.

Related Reading

Horses are still being shipped live from Canada to Japan to make specialty sashimi; Tuesday’s Horse; April 2017

Calgary Stampede: Torturing cows and horses is wrong, outdated and illegal

Cross-posted from the Globe and Mail
Camille Labchuk is an animal-rights lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice Canada

THERE’S little doubt that using animals for entertainment is rapidly becoming unacceptable. Shifting public perceptions first forced Ringling Brothers to retire elephants from circuses, and soon after compelled SeaWorld to end its orca shows.

The fleeting entertainment we may experience at seeing animals perform tricks isn’t worth forcing them to endure suffering, and even death. I predict that rodeo events will be the next spectacle of suffering to become socially unacceptable.

The Calgary Stampede has become synonymous with the trauma and violence of rodeo events. Starting this weekend, rodeo competitors will face off in nine separate event categories, including calf roping, steer wrestling, bronco riding, and chuckwagon racing.

The details vary, but all rodeo events have a few common threads: Animals are goaded into running and bucking through fear and physical pain, they are often lassoed, wrestled or roped to the ground, and the unwilling animal participants experience significant suffering, injuries, and sometimes death.

Chuckwagon racing is by far the most deadly spectacle for animals, with multiple horses killed in the event nearly every year. In fact, more than half of the 94 animals killed in the Stampede since 1986 were horses forced to compete in chuckwagon races.

Alberta law prohibits causing distress to an animal, and there’s little question that steers wrestled to the ground, baby calves who are brutally roped around the neck, and the horses who predictably die in chuckwagon races experience distress.

A competitor disqualified in 2015 for excessive horse whipping faced no legal sanction; nor were charges laid after a bull was repeatedly kicked in the head in 2013 to force him to perform.

Read full article »

Historic Big Hitch of horses to ride again in Calgary Stampede Parade

Is it that time again for the deadly Calgary Stampede? And this Big Hitch thing. What is the fascination with these types of things? Ah yeah, it’s man’s ego again. That’s all this is about. Notice the title too. It sounds like the horses are riding instead of pulling. How far and for how long? Please don’t say it doesn’t bother the horses or they enjoy it. —Ed.

By Reid Fiest, Alberta Correspondent

Clip Art Canadian Maple Leaf White on Red.

Albertans call it the Big Hitch and when you see it, it’s easy to understand why.

Crews hooked up 30 Percheron horses to eight wagons Monday, all under the control of just one man: Neil Dimmock.

“This is the semi truck of today,” Dimmock told Global News in Strathmore, Alta.

“Back then (in the 1920s) if you wanted to move large and bulk items, you used many horses and many wagons.”

Dimmock and his volunteer crew are now trying to re-create history with the animals.

In 1925, Slim Moorehouse made history driving a hitch of 36 horses and 10 wagons in the Calgary Stampede Parade.

The horseman broke a world record for the ride. Read full story »

I just noticed in comments to this article — “Weren’t they doin’ something similar to this a few years ago and a bunch of horses panicked and went off a bridge and drowned?” They are referring to the horror story below. Another one of those commemoration things. Disgusting.

Here’s what they are referring to.

The CBC reported the following on July 4, 2005:

“At least nine Calgary Stampede rodeo horses died Sunday after becoming spooked while galloping across a city bridge. They jumped from the bridge and plunged 10 metres into the Bow River.

“Ranch hands had been guiding about 200 horses on a six-day, 206-km journey from the Stampede Ranch near Hanna, Alta., to the exhibition site near Calgary’s downtown.

“The event was organized to commemorate the province’s centennial.”


The Calgary Stampede is a festival of horse abuse on a massive scale where death is a regular occurrence.


Open Letter to Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal Jann Arden; by Heather Clemenceau; June 21, 2016

Calgary Stampede: Why horses die on the ‘half-mile of hell’; BBC News Canada; by Micah Luxen, 14 July 2015.


This is the only use of horses in rodeos we approve of.




Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES
A cowboy is tossed off his horse in the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede on July 11, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten day event, drawing over one million visitors, is Canada’s largest annual rodeo and is billed as the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.’

Tradition is a stale myth and an unacceptable excuse for rodeo abuse

UPDATED July 6, 2016


Canada_Flag_2010Heritage and tradition are often the first lines of defense when it comes to excusing the cruelties and abuses animals are subjected to in sport and entertainment. Rodeos are no exception.

In an excellent article for the Calgary Herald entitled “Stampede rodeos a stale myth”, Peter Fricker, Communications Director for the Vancouver Humane Society, addresses this issue starting below.

IT’S NO SURPRISE that two American cowboys, best known as contestants on the reality TV show Amazing Race, are this year’s Calgary Stampede parade marshals. They epitomize the Stampede’s American show business roots.

Promoters of the Calgary Stampede often play the “heritage card” when animal welfare advocates criticize the treatment of rodeo animals. The Stampede rodeo, they say, represents ranch life, the history of the Old West and western Canadian culture. But the facts show otherwise.

The truth is the Stampede is a transplanted piece of American mythology parading as Canadian culture. It doesn’t represent ranch life, historical or modern, and its depiction of western heritage is rooted in Wild West shows, dime-store novels and Hollywood hype.

Every year the Stampede rodeo is promoted as a “Canadian cultural icon” yet a close inspection of both the modern Stampede and its historical record reveals it is about as Canadian as George Washington, Uncle Sam and John Wayne.


Omak Suicide Race in Washington State
Omak Suicide Race in Washington State

The Omak Suicide Race that takes place the second weekend in August in Omak, Washington also appears to be more hype than heritage.

The Omak Suicide Race is famous for the spectacle of more than a dozen horses and riders racing down Suicide Hill, a 225-foot (69 m) slope at a steep 62-degree angle to the Okanogan River, where the horses either gallop or swim across it (depending on the depth of the water), then scramble up the embankment on the other side, and race 500 yards (546.8 m) to the finish line.

Horses are sometimes killed when they break their legs, necks or backs as they are galloped then suddenly plummeted down the hazardously steep hill, or panic and drown in the river.

Held for more than 70 years, it is the only event in the Omak Stampede lineup not sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Where did the idea come from?

Supposedly inspired by Indian endurance races, the Omak Suicide Race is the brainchild of Omak Stampede Publicity Chairman and furniture salesman, (Mr) Claire Pentz, designed in 1935 to buck up the Stampede’s falling attendance.

Citing the fact that only a small percentage of people attending the Calgary Stampede go for the rodeo events, Fricker states:

Maybe people are getting tired of the western heritage hype or maybe people in the 21st century think it’s about time we stopped tormenting animals for entertainment.

There are many more interesting facts on the Calgary Stampede and its history in Mr. Fricker’s article. Sadly it is no longer available so glad we have the above. —Ed.


Canadian Cities Should Say No To Hosting Rodeos”; by Peter Fricker; Huffington Post; May 12, 2016.


A cowboy and his horse kick up dust out on the range. Photo Credit: