moved that Bill C-355, An Act to prohibit the export by air of horses for slaughter and to make related amendments to certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am here today to discuss an issue that is important to me and to many Canadians, private member's bill, Bill C-355, which seeks to ban the export of live horses for slaughter. I stand in the House not just as a member of Parliament but also as a Canadian who values the special relationship between humans and horses.
I tabled this private member's bill to ban the export of live horses for slaughter, a practice that must stop. I have spent months hearing from stakeholders on all sides of this issue, and it has been a very thoughtful process. I look forward to discussing and debating this issue in the House of Commons and at committee. I welcome the opportunity to work together across party lines to advance this important legislation. Other countries have banned this practice and I believe it is time for Canada to do the same.
Throughout Canada's history, horses have been our steadfast companions, working alongside us in the fields and forests, in communities that make up this great nation. Our history with horses is a rich and diverse as the land we call home. There is no doubt that Canadians have a special relationship with horses.
In the bucolic landscape of Kitchener—Conestoga, the riding I have the privilege to represent, we can see that relationship everyday. For generations, and to this day, Mennonite families in our region have relied on and still rely on horses for traditional horse-drawn buggies for transportation.
Our local newspaper, the Woolwich Observer, and the Canadian Tire in town both have tie-ups for horses and buggies. We can still see some farmers in Kitchener—Conestoga working side by side with their horses, plowing fields. These horses are more than just working animals. They are part of the Mennonite identity and a symbol of the commitment to a simple and sustainable way of life.
Symbolic of Canada is the iconic image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, proudly working in harmony with their horses, representing law and order across our vast nation. The RCMP's history with horses is a testament to the enduring partnership between humans and these majestic animals, a bond forged in the crucible of duty and service.
Every year, in Kitchener—Conestoga, in the township of Wilmot, our New Hamburg Fall Fair remains a beacon of tradition. There are events throughout the weekend in September, but the first event of the fair is always the horse pull event, where the strength and grace of these majestic animals is showcased. These gatherings are not just about competition but serve as a reminder of the shared values that bind our real communities together.
Beyond the roles in agriculture and law enforcement, horses have been integral to our everyday lives as companion animals. Many Canadians have experienced the joy of bonding with horses, forging a connection that transcends words. Their gentle nature and intuitive understanding make them not just pets but true friends, offering solace and companionship in a hectic world.
In recent times, we have also recognized the therapeutic benefit of horses. Equine-assisted therapy has emerged as a powerful tool, providing comfort and healing to those facing physical and emotional challenges. The quiet strength of a horse has the capacity to mend wounds both seen and unseen and restore a sense of balance to those who seek solace in their presence.
In celebrating and appreciating the unique relationship with horses, let us not forget the responsibility that comes with it. We must ensure the welfare of these magnificent creatures, preserving their place in our hearts and in our history.
Today. I want to shed light on the current situation.
Each year approximately 2,600 live horses are exported by Canada for the sole purpose of slaughter. The conditions under which these horses are exported are distressing to say the least. These young, 18-month-old, intelligent and sensitive animals are packed into cramped and often unsuitable shipping containers. They endure long journeys spanning thousands of kilometres. They are deprived of food and water for extended periods of time during those flights and can arrive injured or deceased.
Horses by their very nature are sensitive beings and companion animals. Subjecting them to such stressful conditions is not only inhumane but it goes against the very values that we hold dear as Canadians. Imagine the stress of being crammed into a confined space with the constant movement and the uncertainty of the journey's end. Horses, unlike traditional livestock, form deep bonds with humans and their capacity for suffering is profound. This is not a fate that should befit animals that have played pivotal roles in our history.
It is heartening to note that several countries, including the United States and the U.K., have already recognized the ethical implications of exporting live horses for slaughter and have banned this practice. It is high time for Canada to follow suit. Our nation has a proud history of leading by example and, on this matter, Canadians know this practice is the right thing to do, regardless of what country is or is not doing. We must ensure that these horses are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Therefore, let us join the ranks of countries that have banned this practice and show the world that Canada values compassion and humanity in all its forms.
Before understanding what the bill aims to accomplish, it is important to understand the industry of live-horse export in Canada.
According to Statistics Canada, about 2,600 horses were exported for slaughter in 2022. Compared to other sectors, this is a relatively small industry, with a total value of about $19 million per year. There are approximately 350 producers in Canada and only a few companies export live horses by plane. Most of these flights leave from Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg.
The majority of horses exported for slaughter are raised on feedlots. Feedlots are abandoned plots of land where horses are often denied shelter or protection from the elements. These are not the kinds of horse stables that I see in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga or in communities across Canada.
These gentle draft horses are raised to the age of 18 months old and then shipped live in crates. Each crate is roughly the size of a single conventional horse stall that would normally be expected to hold one horse. For shipping, three to four horses are crammed into the small space and then they journey thousands of kilometres with no food or water. Canada is one of the only countries in the world that breeds and raises horses and then transports them live overseas for slaughter to fill a demand for fresh horsemeat.
The bill is very specific in its focus. My private member's bill, Bill C-355, would do what the title says: prohibit the export of horses by air for slaughter. The bill takes into consideration numerous factors, including legal obligations, international trade commitments and relations, acts and regulations involving animals more broadly, and mechanisms for implementation and enforcement. My team and I have worked diligently to ensure that the legislation is comprehensive and considers all perspectives.
People might wonder why existing laws are not sufficient to prohibit this practice. The answer is that our current legal framework does not adequately protect these horses. We need specific legislation that makes it crystal clear that the export of live horses for slaughter is unacceptable in Canada, and Bill C-355 is that legislation.
In having a full understanding of the bill, it is also important to highlight what the bill would not do. I want to ensure for our hard-working farmers and ranchers that Bill C-355 is specifically aimed at banning the export of live horses for slaughter and does not intend to disrupt any other livestock sector. I understand the critical role that our agricultural communities play in our nation's prosperity and the dedication they put into their work every day.
My close relationship with farmers in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga has deepened my appreciation for the tireless efforts and commitment they and their families put into their livelihoods. As a member of the agriculture committee, it is an honour for me to meet with and hear from agricultural stakeholders on a regular basis. It is because of these connections that I want to emphasize that this legislation is not about targeting or hindering the livelihoods of those who rely on livestock for their well-being and their contributions to our nation's food security.
Bill C-355 is solely focused on banning the export of live horses, recognizing their unique role and the specific challenges they face in the export market for slaughter. I remain committed to working collaboratively with our farming communities to ensure the legislation has no unintended consequences for their operations. Our goal is to protect the welfare of horses, while respecting the value of work that farmers undertake.
By uniting our efforts to pass this bill, it can demonstrate our commitment to both animal welfare and the prosperity of our rural communities. Together, we can ensure that Canada continues to be a beacon of compassion and responsibility toward its animals, while upholding the values that our farmers and their families hold dear.
With regard to the timeline of Bill C-355, it must pass in the House of Commons and the Senate. Once passed, the bill can receive royal assent and come into effect 18 months after it has become law. The 18-month timeline aligns with the natural lifespan of a horse raised for slaughter, which is also 18 months. By design, this time frame reflects an understanding of the industry and the life cycle of these horses.
Moreover, the 18-month grace period is not just a symbolic gesture; it is a practical necessity. We recognize the industry will require time to adapt and implement the necessary changes to comply with new regulations. This grace period would allow stakeholders, from breeders to exporters, to make the essential adjustments without undue burden. The aim is to provide this time frame to ensure a smooth transition toward a more compassionate and responsible approach to the treatment of horses in our society. I believe the time frame built into the legislation strikes this balance, giving enough time for the industry to adjust, while being enacted as soon as practically possible.
I want to emphasize that drafting this legislation has been a thoughtful and inclusive process. I have spent months meeting with many stakeholders and considering the views from all sides. This includes fellow members of Parliament, senators, farmers, animal rights advocates, industry representatives and citizens from my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga and throughout Canada. The bill reflects a balanced approach that aims to protect horses, while considering the economic interests of those involved.
I am pleased to inform members that my private member's bill, Bill C-355, has garnered support from both sides of the House of Parliament. This is a testament to the shared belief in the importance of protecting these animals and the need to end the export of live horses for slaughter.
As we continue to move forward, I welcome the opportunity to continue this debate in committee, working collaboratively with my colleagues to ensure the legislation becomes law and horses in Canada are safeguarded.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the advocates and stakeholders who have contributed to this discussion and the drafting of this legislation. Their passion, dedication and tireless efforts have brought us to this point.
Public opinion on this issue has made it clear that Canadians are simply not supportive of exporting horses for slaughter. There has been strong support from animal welfare advocacy groups like the SPCAs across Canada. Citizens from coast to coast to coast have made their voices heard.
I would like to thank one voice in particular, a voice I think we all know. Canadian icon Jann Arden has been a champion of the issue of banning the export of live horses for slaughter. She helped promote a recent petition that was presented in the House of Commons by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, which received over 36,000 signatures. I want to personally thank her for her strong advocacy.
I would like to conclude by saying that this has been a thoughtful process that began months ago. I have met with, and continue to meet, with stakeholders to hear from them and to learn from their perspectives. I look forward to working collaboratively with parliamentarians to ensure this bill moves through the House of Commons in a timely manner. I am optimistic the bill will continue to receive support from both sides of the House.
Finally, let us embrace and celebrate that special bond we share with horses and continue to promote their humane treatment. The deep connection that exists between horses and humans is one that, through the very essence of our national identity, reminds us of the enduring spirit of partnership and harmony that defines us as Canadians. It is a partnership and a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.
The export of live horses for slaughter is a betrayal of that trust and a breach of our moral obligations. Therefore, let us stand together across party lines and put an end to this cruel practice. I thank members for their support. Let us work together to make Bill C-355 a reality and ban the export of live horses for slaughter.