Overview and Brief History of Horse Slaughter in Canada (for newcomers to the advocacy movement)

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) is a collective of people and national groups that have joined forces in order to ban the slaughter of equines for human consumption in Canada, as well as the export of live horses to other countries for the same purpose.

The slaughter industry is a predatory one; from the time the horse is acquired by a “kill buyer,” he or she is “meat on the hoof” and is treated as a mere commodity.

Travel to slaughterhouses may take days without food or water, followed by an often painful and slow death by captive bolt or .22 rifle.

The CHDC has reported, in four investigative reports conducted over several years, that rampant cruelty is endemic in Canadian horse slaughter plants.

In addition, the horses that enter the food chain are not guaranteed to be free of prohibited drugs, since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency currently finds the “honour system” an acceptable program for owners and kill buyers when declaring (or not declaring) the presence of drugs in horses.

Clearly, allowing horse owners or worse, kill buyers, this kind of input and control over the food supply is unacceptable.

Horses are generally not raised as food animals.

Slaughter simply is not a legitimate form of euthanasia and it is disturbing that a few organizations have manipulated messages about humane euthanasia by veterinarians.

This resource is not intended to be a “canon” of all available literature on the horse slaughter issue.

But these materials cover the main contentious issues with slaughter and a comprehensive reading will enable to the new advocate to speak confidently on the main message points.

You can expand on your knowledge by googling practices or issues with horse slaughter as well.

Welcome, thank you for your support and interest, and please read on….

Euthanasia is defined as “the intentional causing of a painless and easy death to a patient suffering from an incurable or painful disease”.

Webster’s II University Dictionary, 1996


Two issues central to horse advocacy are that:

1.  Horses are not regulated as food animals in Canada,  gaps in regulation and enforcement allows horse meat into the food chain that is not fit for human consumption.

2.  In addition to the drug issues inherent with horse meat,  many animal advocacy groups report on transport and feedlot issues on behalf of horses

The CHDC Youtube Channel is a resource for video evidence of cruelty to horses in the slaughter pipeline – some graphic content in videos (user discretion advised).  

In addition,  we have published investigations into Canadian slaughter plants based on anonymously obtained video. 

Compare the slaughter videos on our YouTube channel with this video of humane euthanasia:

The Humane Society of the United States.  The facts about horse slaughter.


Many organizations in the US and Canada actively promote horse slaughter and benefit from its existence.  The trade in horsemeat is lucrative:

Discussion of Conjugated Equine Estrogens used in drugs at Tuesday’s Horse (Blog of the Horse Fund).


Many organizations in addition to the CHDC are adamantly opposed to the slaughter of horses.

In a survey of Canadians,  approximately 64% stated that they were opposed to horse slaughter.

Written By Allen Warrenthis paper not only proposes a change in the legal status of equine, but also delves into the pre-1990 history of equine slaughter.

Veterinarians for Equine Welfare have written a Position Paper opposing horse slaughter in the United States. (Sorry, archive is no longer available.)


The CHDC has been active for several years in the political forum,  working with supportive MPs who have drafted anti-slaughter private member’s bills in Canada.  A discussion of horse slaughter in Canada would not be complete without mentioning the two latest anti-slaughter bills.  (Bill C-322 replaced the earlier Bill C-544) and the demise of Bill C-571.


In this particular case, the law is abundantly clear that inspections of all horses must be done (by CFIA inspectors) prior to all shipments, and that all shipments must be certified as being compliant with the law.

For years, these inspectors have been certifying these shipments, even though horses were being shipped contrary to the law (ie, crammed horses into small crates, instead of being separated to avoid harming each other; and not providing enough headroom).

Rebeka Breeder

Animal Law Lawyer, Breder Law Corporation

“People are surprised to learn that horses are being slaughtered in Canada [for human consumption].

Perhaps even worse, they are being exported in crammed conditions, to Japan [and South Korea] to be slaughtered for meat.

Horses that may have been someone’s pet.”


Horse slaughter proponents are continually challenged to debunk false information and propaganda by those individuals and organizations who are determined to benefit by the existence of horse slaughter. 

Many reports of horse abandonment en mass have been shown to be exaggerated or false. 

The truth about horse abuse and abandonment (and the primary causes) is discussed in the following articles:

Is it true that horse slaughter relieves the abuse of horses?  (Sorry, this link is no longer archived.)


Despite slaughter proponents’ claims that horse slaughter is necessary,  alternatives to slaughter and disposal methods do exist and can be further developed in the market based on demand (the following is by no means an exhaustive list). 

It is quite true that “necessity is the mother of invention” and while slaughter exists,  there is less of an imperative to develop many innovations for horse disposal or humane alternatives to slaughter:

Emergency Euthanization of Horses. Sorry, this link is no longer active.

Carcass disposal. (Sorry, this link is no longer available.)

The Captive Bolt vs. Humane Euthanasia for Horses (Sorry, this link is no longer available.)

See below for related BLOG posts, and see all of our Blog posts here.

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Crates Break During Loading

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Jann Arden has created a campaign to help in the fight against the live draft horse shipments to Japan.  You can find more info at her web site.  Here you can order various products to show your support for the horses.

"Canada should be leading the world when it comes to animal welfare— and yet we drop the ball in so many ways. We ship thousands upon thousands of live horses for the overseas meat trade and grotesquely fail with their treatment. Often in tight cages of three or four - for days."

"This is an amazing, important organization... donate if you can. Even a toonie makes a difference."  

Please share this site with  friends who own horses but may not be aware of the horse slaughter industry in Canada, with friends who may be taking conjugated equine estrogens for menopause, with doctors who prescribe CEE drugs, and with any friends considering taking their horse to a sale barn or an auction.