On May 11, 2020 another 114 horses were shipped by air from Canada to Japan for slaughter for human consumption.

Through Access to Information (ATI), the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) has recently received Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reports as well as correspondence regarding this flight and the condition of the horses. These documents reveal one horse died.

Upon their arrival in Japan, five horses were not standing in crates and one was dead. Four others “did not show physical strength although they stood up for unloading”.

Back in April 2020 blood samples were collected from 141 horses of which these 114 horses were a part. The blood was taken to determine eligibility for export to Japan in order to meet the Veterinary Health Certificate for Export of Horses to Japan (VHC) requirements. The blood draw was accomplished by restraining the horses in a tilting hydraulic chute system.

One gelding went down in the chute post testing. The chute’s floor was dropped, the chute lifted and the horse was able to stand on his own and walk away.

At this time it was noticed there were two horses with the same brand number (#315). Both horses were subsequently included in the Addendum for animals not shipped list (p. 53).

Of the 141 horses sampled, four were pulled due to positive test results:

More confusion arose over whether horse #147 had in fact been loaded. Clarification was sought when it was discovered that the Health Certificate addendum indicated he had not while the ‘packing list’ showed he had. (p 16, 19).

In keeping with the VHC for the export of horses to Japan, those deemed eligible for export entered isolation on May 4.

  1. Each animals was kept isolated from any other animal not intended to be exported to Japan for at least seven (7) days prior to shipment on premises approved for this purpose by an official of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and, during that period, was inspected by a salaried veterinarian of the Government of Canada and found to be in good health and free from any evidence of communicable diseases.

-From the Veterinary Health Certificate Export Horses to Japan

The Veterinary Health Certificate Export Horses to Japan form can be found on pages 43, 44 of the release package.

The horses on this flight were young, described on the Specimen Submissions form as Crossbreds born in 2018. One mare was 17 months of age, all others were 18 months.

  • At 3 p.m. on May 10, 2020 the horses were loaded on trailers for transport to the airport. According to the Inspector Report, six trucks carrying 114 horses arrived at the Winnipeg International Airport that night between 9:30 and 10 p.m.
  • From 10:30 p.m. on May 10 to 1:45 a.m. on May 11, thirty-three crates were loaded, each one holding 3-4 horses.
  • At 2:30 a.m. the crate to aircraft loading procedure began. The plane departed at approximately 4:55 a.m.

The above timeline of events can be found in the Inspector Report, page 55 of the release package.

The same report also references an e-mail from the importer which stated “Total five horses not standing in the crates and one of those (#47) was dead during transportation to the quarantine station. Other four horses did not show physical strength neither although they stood up for unloading”.

According to the most recent information we have, the crates used in these shipments measure 9.5 feet by 7 feet for floor space and 7.6 feet high.

A re-fueling stop in Anchorage was scheduled, meaning an additional landing and take-off the horses had to endure.

The plane remained on the ground there for a little over 2 hours. Including this period the total flight time was approximately 14 hours, 46 minutes.

The Humane Transportation of Animals form shows the start date/time of loading to be May 10 at 15:00 (3 p.m.) and end date/time of loading as May 11 at 04:00 (4 a.m.).

Added together, from the time they were loaded on trailers to their arrival in Japan, the total time the horses on this flight were without food, water or rest is 28.67 hours. This does not include unloading time at the Kitakyushu airport or travel to the quarantine facility in Japan.

It is unclear where/when exactly the death of the young gelding occurred. While the importer was quoted as saying the horse (#47) was dead during transportation to the quarantine station another email portrays a different version of the ‘unfortunate incident’.

  1. 19, 20- It seems like the dead one laid down right after departure and has been doing so all the way to Japan, so we assume it got sick before or during loading process.

But they were hopeful the other four horses would recover soon.

It appears that a company called Sea Air were the handlers of this shipment (P17).  Their web site claims that they take very special care of horses.

All released documents associated with this request may be viewed here.


Last year, CHDC took the government to court over violations to the Health of Animals Act involving the exportation of horses as air cargo to Japan and South Korea for slaughter. Unfortunately, we lost the case but launched an appeal shortly thereafter. We agreed with our lawyer that this avenue was worth pursuing, as some factors appeared to have been overlooked by the presiding judge. We are presently waiting to hear when our appeal will be heard.  You can learn more about this on our website.

While we wait, the animal welfare issues surrounding these flights continue to loom. The latest documents obtained through Access to Information clearly illustrate endemic problems within the live horse export industry. The horses shipped on the May 10, 2020 flight were young – 17-18 months of age. One died and numerous others experienced difficulty with the flight.

No wonder, as all were crammed into small crates without access to food and water for over 28 hours. This did not include unloading and transport in Japan, and further suffering during transfer. To say nothing of the confusion that reigned over identifying documents!

This kind of scenario simply should not happen, given that these animals are being exported for human food and need a clear paper trail showing their origins and health history.

What more is needed to prove that the export of horses overseas cannot be made humane? What is the government of Canada waiting for?

The political climate in our country is more than a little chaotic with Covid-19 and other threats looming at this time. No doubt many Members of Parliament are worried about a possible fall election, whether their party will win, and what Canada’s future will look like as 2021 approaches.

NOW is the time to let your MP know that it is not OK for Canada to participate in this cruel trade, and that your support is contingent upon your political representative’s integrity and compassion.

The horses deserve kind treatment, not a one-way ticket to slaughter in a foreign country. Covid-19, the WE scandal and other threats are no excuse for politicians to ignore animal welfare concerns.

Contact your MP today by telephone, by e-mail, or by post.

PLEASE do it for the horses!