Dr. Maureen Harper, DVM, Responds to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau
We are deeply grateful to everyone who has been making their views known about the exportation of live horses from Canada to be slaughtered abroad. You have signed petitions and continue to make phone calls and write letters to the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Members of Parliament.
Thank you, all!
Dr. Maureen Harper, DVM, is a retired CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)
veterinarian and an outspoken critic of the horse shipments. Like many of you, she has written to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to outline her concerns and was recently sent the same response we know others have also received.
Dr. Harper has responded and has graciously allowed us to share her letter to the Minister. Thank you, Dr. Harper.
Dear Minister Bibeau:
Thank you for your response to my email that was sent to you and the Prime Minister, dated Feb, 23, 2023.
I appreciate from your letter that you are still prepared to honour the Prime Ministers commitment to ban these inhumane shipments of horses for slaughter to Japan and South Korea. Unfortunately, to continue to delay the implementation of this commitment to ban these shipments, only serves to delay the protection of these horses. As previously mentioned, Prime Minister Trudeau committed to this ban while campaigning in the last election. And his mandate letter, dated Dec. 16, 2021, clearly stated that he expected an early implementation of this ban and a public report to Canadians on the progress of the implementation of the ban. To this end, I would like to be provided with a copy of the public report denoting the progress of the implementation of this ban.
In my view, there has been more than ample time to consult with all concerned parties. And I note that you did not refute any of the comments that I provided in my initial correspondence, denoting why these shipments are cruel and inhumane. Just to reiterate, the large draft horses in these shipments are not being separated from one another, are being crammed into rickety wooden crates and many of the larger horses; heads are touching the tops of the shipping containers. This is directly contributing to horses fighting, falling and being trampled on, resulting in an inordinate amount of injuries and deaths. As proof of this, I have attached a record of some of the incidents of injuries and deaths of horses in these shipments over the years. These documents were obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ( CFIA) through access of information. And this list is by no means complete. I am certain that there are many other incidents unknown to the public.
In your letter, you make reference to unintended consequences related to changes in policies and regulations. Would you kindly elucidate what you mean by this statement? A ban is a ban and that is what the Prime Minister promised and instructed you to implement, regardless of any unintended consequences that may ensue. I am certain that the Prime Minister did not make the decision to ban these shipments frivolously. The evidence is clear that these horses are being treated inhumanely and as a result are suffering. Does trade and & unintended consequences; usurp the humane treatment of animals? I repeat, these shipments are a stain on Canada’s international reputation. To my knowledge, no other countries are permitting large draft horses to be shipped by air in this manner. In my previous letter, I advised you that I was employed by the CFIA and that I worked for many years as the veterinarian responsible for overseeing the importation and exportation of animals at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. (LBPIA). Horses were always transported by air in proper horse containers that were usually made of metal with padding to help protect them. And horses were always segregated from one another to prevent injuries and deaths. And they always had ample head clearance in order to allow them to maintain their balance during the flight. I saw no deaths of horses in all the years that I worked at LPBIA. And I very seldom witnessed any injuries. The CFIA and industry are well aware of this, I assure you.
In your letter you claim that the government recently updated the Health of Animals Regulations to help better reflect animals needs. I agree in many instances that is the case, for example the lowering of maximum travel times allowed before the requirement of food, water and rest. But your statement is not entirely correct, in my opinion. The previous regulations required that all horses over 14 hands be segregated when being shipped by air. The new regulations removed that requirement and replaced it with the requirement that only incompatible animals have to be segregated. As mentioned in my previous letter, a veterinarian cannot properly assess compatibility on the spot while loading animals into containers at the airport. And regardless, compatibility can easily change due to the stress of the flight. The change in this regulation does not better reflect the needs of the horses in these shipments because they are very large and as such, they can inflict severe damage on one another if they aren’t segregated. This is one of the key reasons why these shipments must be banned.
You also reference CFIA enforcement of the updated regulations in your response. As per my previous letter, there was a shipment from Winnipeg last Dec. that far exceeded the allowed maximum travel time of 28 hrs. without food, water and rest. And as a result, three horses were found down in the containers upon arrival at destination. I ask, where was the enforcement of the updated regulations in this case?
In summary, the time for consultation must come to an end. The government has been well aware of the facts of these inhumane shipments of horses for slaughter for many years now. That is why the commitment was finally made by Prime Minister Trudeau to ban them. To continue to delay, is to deny this commitment.
The health, well being and very lives of these horses depend on honouring this commitment. I can’t stress that enough.
I look forward to a prompt response vowing to finally ban these shipments now.
DEATHS AND INJURIES
Oct. 14, 2014: Horse death
Horse kicks through crates, damaging aircraft fuselage.
On October 21, 2014 Atlas Air flight number 5Y-5487 left the Calgary airport carrying 85 draft horses to Japan for slaughter. There was a non-scheduled stop in Anchorage so an injured horse could be attended to and aircraft damage could be assessed as “… a horse had kicked through its stall and had done major damage to its crate and the aircraft fuselage”. Upon landing the injured horse was found to have died. The horse had been agitated upon loading, fell on take-off, remained down during the flight, was thrashing and kicked through the wooden crate resulting in significant damage to the inner lining of the fuselage wall.
March 15, 2015: Horse death
Access-To-Information documents received regarding a March 11, 2015 live horse shipment from the Calgary Airport describe the conditions under which several horses went down once loaded, or prior to being loaded, on an Atlas Air flight to Osaka, Japan. Of the horses that were taken back to the barn at the airport be assessed, one horse was found to be deceased in the crate.
November 7, 2018: Horse death
On Tuesday, November 6, 2018 one hundred eleven horses were conveyed by trucks to the Calgary International Airport where they were loaded in crates to await transport to Japan the following day. After a 2+ hour delay, the Korean Air Cargo 747 finally departed at 8:43 a.m. on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 with 109 horses on board. According to documents received through Access to Information, a 14 year old Belgian cross mare was removed due to weight restrictions. Another, a ten year old mare (#217), was euthanized after being found down in the crate, breathing heavily and unable to stand on her own.
May 11, 2020: Horse Death
One horse death was reported to have occurred on a flight from Winnipeg. 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”.
Unspecified date in 2011: Three Horse Deaths
An email sent on May 27, 2013 mentions an incident that occurred 2 years previously during a bad landing in Anchorage. Two horses were dead upon arrival in Japan and another died in quarantine. (See point 3 in the insert below)
January, 2013: One horse death
A “shipment from Winnipeg (delayed due to equipment problems) had one horse die in transit”. No other details are provided. (See point 3 in the insert below).