Canada is one of the only countries in the world that breeds, raises and transports horses overseas to be slaughtered for human consumption.
And the BC SPCA is renewing calls to stop the practice.
The animal care group is again asking the federal government to put an end to the horse meat industry in Canada.
They are encouraging people to sign an online petition asking the government to take action.
Carly Marchand, of Freedom's Gate Equine Rescue in Salmon Arm, called it Canada's dirty little secret.
Marchand said many horses that are sold at auction are then sold to slaughter houses, which then sell them for human consumption.
Known as 'meat buyers' or 'kill buyers' Marchand said they will bid on horses no one else is bidding on.
“You can purchase horse meat even here in B.C.,” Marchand said. “Local butcher shops will carry it ‘behind the counter.'”
Marchand said horses that are shipped out of the country sometimes arrive at their final destination severely injured, or even die during shipping.
“Canada recently updated their transport laws, which previously allowed horses to be transported for 36 hours at a time,” says BC SPCA’s Melissa Speirs, manager of farm animal welfare.
“Canada’s current animal transport laws are still inadequate. It is currently legal for horses to be transported without feed, water or rest for up to 28 hours.”
The long journey begins when horses are loaded onto trucks and driven to Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg airports, where they may sit on the tarmac for hours before being loaded. According to Speirs, before being loaded on the plane, three to four horses are put into a single shipping crate smaller than the average horse stall.
“With such close quarters, horses can easily injure one another or lose their balance and be unable to get back up,” Speirs said.
“The BC SPCA strongly advocates that no animal should be transported without feed, water, or rest for more than eight hours, and that horses should not be shipped by plane under these cramped and stressful conditions,” says Speirs.
The BC SPCA also supports the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition’s work towards ending the live export of horses for slaughter. Most recently, the BC SPCA joined them and other animal protection organizations in sending an open letter to the federal government urging action on this issue.