Horse export protesters picket Calgary airport meeting

Animal rights groups crashed the YYC Airport Authority's annual general meeting on Thursday to protest the shipment of live horses overseas for meat

Animal rights groups rally against shipping live horses to Japan where the raw meat is seen as delicacy

Nine people protested the transport of live horses at YYC Airport Authority's AGM on Thursday. (CBC)

Animal rights groups crashed the YYC Airport Authority's annual general meeting on Thursday to protest the shipment of live horses overseas for meat.

Holding signs saying, "Horse Export is Cruel" and "Stop Live Exports Now," nine people rallied outside the Aero Space Museum where the AGM was taking place. 

Anita Virginillo is with the Calgary Animal Rights Effort. The group organized the rally, along with the Lethbridge Animal Rights Effort.

Virginillo says horses must be shipped live because the meat is considered a delicacy in Japan.

"They like to eat it raw. It's a highly perishable food. It must be eaten within three days of being slaughtered," she said.

Annual horse exports from Canada to Japan have more than tripled in the last few years. According to Statistics Canada, the number of live horses shipped has jumped from 2,201 in 2012 to nearly 8,000 last year.

"They're put in flimsy wooden crates, usually three to four horses per crate and often times the horses cannot fully stand up in the crate," said Virginillo.

"Also going 36 hours without food or water."

In an email statement, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it "inspects all air shipments of horses leaving Canada and verifies that shipping conditions are appropriate for the animals involved."

Regarding horses going without food or water, the CFIA said, "As in any situation when a complaint is received by the CFIA, it is carefully reviewed by agency staff to ensure that all applicable rules and regulations are being followed and that the transportation of any animals is done as humanely as possible and are given appropriate care such as food and water."

Virginillo says there are numerous ranches in Alberta that breed large draft horses specifically to be exported to Japan.

"It's a conversation that's long overdue. Very few people are aware of it. These shipments take place late at night, it's dark," she said. "So, I want to be a voice for these animals."


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