More than 36,000 people have signed a petition calling on the federal Liberals to live up to their election promise to ban the live export of horses for slaughter.
Statistics Canada data shows since the promise was made in 2021 more than 2,000 horses have been shipped from Canada to Japan where raw horse meat is a local delicacy.
Canadian singer Jann Arden initiated the petition because she believes the shipping of horses overseas is a cruel practice that has to end.
"It's a disgusting operation and it's just about money, money, money," Arden said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Horses are put into cramped wooden crates and are sometimes left on the tarmac for hours before the flight takes off where they are clearly stressed and make hideous sounds, said Arden, who has witnessed them being loaded up at the Calgary airport.
Arden said for her it's not about telling people what they should and shouldn't eat.
"It's the treatment of animals," she said.
The petition says that horses panic easily, have strong fight or flight instincts, and have extremely sensitive hearing.
The journey from feedlots in Canada to those in Japan commonly takes more than 24 hours, and can lawfully take up to 28 hours, during which time horses are deprived of food, water and rest, the petition said.
"It's a really sinister part of Canadian agriculture," Arden said.
A spokeswoman for the federal agriculture department said regulations are in place to ensure horses are fit to travel, and that the government is working to find the best way to ban the export of live horses.
Since 2013, five horses have died during transport the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said.
NDP MP Alistair MacGregor presented the petition in the House of Commons last week, noting his party has introduced three private member's bills since 2010 trying to ban the practice.
None of them passed.
A similar petition calling for a ban on the export of live horses for slaughter was presented in 2021 by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. The election call that August meant the Liberals never formally responded to the petition but did include a promise to ban the practice in the Liberal platform.
The federal government has six weeks to formally respond to the latest version.
This time the petition highlights the government's inaction following the Liberal's election promise.
"It's just smoke and mirrors," Arden said. "This is something that just has to be followed through on. They made a promise to Canadians." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2023.