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Canada is a go-to source of horse meat. These activists are trying to change that.

The live horse trade represents $20 million in sales for Canadian shippers. Frozen horse meat exports is worth $49 million in 2018. The top importers: Japan, the U.S. and France.

ADRIENNE TANNER: Shannon Mann sat in the woods, well supplied with food, toilet paper and her video camera, waiting for the trucks to pick up horses bound for slaughterhouses in Asia, where their meat is considered a delicacy. She had combed the Alberta countryside using Google Earth to locate the horse feedlot, two hours south of Calgary. From her hiding spot, Mann, an equestrian turned animal rights activist, watched the gates for eight hours until the trucks arrived. By then, she was accustomed to long stakeouts…

She condensed her footage into a three-minute YouTube video and in 2012 gave it to Sinikka Crosland at the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, an animal rights group lobbying to stop the slaughter of horses. Here, thought Crosland, was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness for their cause. The footage circulated among activists for years, building support for a court case that is now drawing unwelcome attention to Canada’s role in the horsemeat market—a trade activists in the United States succeeded in shutting down more than a decade ago.

In 2018, nearly 3,400 live horses were flown abroad from Canada to become food for humans. Almost all went to Japan where their meat is sliced thin and eaten raw like sashimi, layered over rice or cooked in hot pots. It’s a market that for decades operated out of the public eye—perhaps because its participants feared how it would be viewed… The live horse trade represents $20 million in sales for Canadian shippers. Frozen horsemeat exports from this country were worth $49 million in 2018, including horsemeat, ass, mule and hinny (male horse-female donkey cross). The top importers: Japan, the U.S. and France…

One of Canada’s horse meat producers is quick to defend the trade to Maclean’s but so afraid of becoming a target of activists, he would only speak on condition of anonymity. “Horses are livestock in Canada and should be considered the same as other livestock,” he says. His business provides a “humane service and financial gain” to horse owners who need to get rid of their animals, he adds: “Euthanizing them may cost thousands of dollars for vet fees, medication, and disposal fees.”

Many Canadians don’t see it that way; they regard horses as companion animals more akin to dogs than livestock. They find the idea of eating them repellent. From coast to coast, horse rescue groups are at work to save as many as possible from auction houses where they are sold for slaughter… But finding a way to end the trade has proven challenging, so Crosland’s organization has instead taken aim at how the animals are transported—with photos from Mann and other activists as evidence. The Federal Court challenge claims the Canadian government is violating its own animal welfare regulations by allowing the transportation of large horses in containers that are too small and crowded.

It’s far from a slam dunk. The coalition lost round one; in January, it filed an appeal. But the activists would like to go further than court, making no secret of their desire to end the killing of animals for meat, altogether. “If you’re born into this and slaughtered, what kind of a life is that?” says Crosland. “I try to put myself in their shoes”. The case has already drawn levels of attention and outrage that years of conventional public awareness campaigning never did… Crosland says the coalition has added about 300 supporters and raked in $45,000 in donations since the case began in the summer of 2018. SOURCE…

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