Animal rights activists decry live horse exports from Calgary to Japan

Animal rights activists say they have video showing horses being treated inhumanely at the Calgary airport prior to shipment to Japan for slaughter.

CALGARY — Animal rights activists say they have video showing horses being treated inhumanely at the Calgary airport prior to shipment to Japan for slaughter.

The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition says the video shows animals placed in crates that don’t have enough standing room, and that some horses have been subjected to de-icing fluid and jet engine blast while they’re being loaded.

Activists raised their concerns Thursday at the annual meeting of the Calgary Airport Authority before demonstrators gathered outside.

The authority says the handling of the animals is a federal responsibility.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it checks all horse shipments to ensure they have adequate food and water, and that it reviews all complaints.

The activists estimate about 90 horses a week are slaughtered in Japan and sell for about $25,000 per animal.

Maureen Hurly with Calgary Animal Rights Effort said the horses suffer during the long-haul flights and some have died en route.

“We are concerned about the entire operation from start to finish. They are legally allowed to go up to 36 hours without food and water.”

Angie Birch, who took part in the demonstration, said the way the horses are shipped upsets her.

“Horses are sentient beings and they feel pain and fear.”

Garth Atkinson, CEO and president of the airport authority, said the shipments take place according to law.

“It’s very closely supervised and every complaint is looked into and addressed.”

There is a growing demand in Japan for horse meat. Figures from Statistics Canada show just over 2,200 horses were shipped to the Asian nation in 2012. That jumped to 7,787 last year.

“It’s all about profit and greed. There’s a lot of money being made off these horses,” said Hurly.