A former member of parliament for Kamloops, B.C., is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to follow through on a commitment to ban live horse exports to Japan.
"It is time to stop torturing our horses," Nelson Riis wrote in a letter to a local newspaper.
In the letter, Riis, who served as Kamloops MP from 1980 to 2000, says tens of thousands of horses have been transported by air to Japan from Western Canada for slaughter. He said horses travel in cramped crates.
"Can you imagine what a horse would feel like locked up into a wooden crate on a noisy plane for hours and hours and hours on end?" Riis told Daybreak Kamloops.
"We do this to thousands of horses every year."
In December 2021, Trudeau mandated Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to "ban the live export of horses for slaughter."
Riis is calling on the public to voice their concerns and demand action from Ottawa.
"This is a non-political thing," he said. "Trudeau has already said he wants to do this. His minister of agriculture has been given the walking papers to do this. Let's just do it. It's a simple piece of legislation that I suspect would get unanimous consent in the House of Commons to pass."
"I'm encouraging people to write their MPs and encouraging MPs to get in touch with the prime minister and say, 'Look, this is a promise that Canadians want you to keep,'" Riis said.
"It requires just a simple change in legislation and it could be done overnight."
WATCH | From 2020: Jann Arden joins animal rights protesters at Calgary airport:
Riis notes singer-songwriter Jann Arden, who has been a vocal opponent of the live export of horses, has created an e-petition that has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
In 2020, Arden attended a protest in Calgary over the practice of live horses being flown to Japan, and told CBC she hoped to shed light on an industry that operates in the shadows.
"And I have yet to meet someone that is not repulsed by watching these horses being exported for slaughter in Japan, in those conditions," Arden said.
A statement from Agriculture Canada says it is considering different ways to address the commitment to ban the transport of horses for slaughter included in Bibeau's mandate letter. Initial discussions have taken place with stakeholders in the agriculture sector with more to follow, it said.
Until a ban is in place, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will continue to enforce regulations and verify that the horses are fit to travel and will be transported humanely, the government said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website says horse meat is exported to Japan and other countries from licensed facilities. The agency "provides inspection services as required for horse slaughter as it does for other food animals."
It says inspectors are present for every air shipment to certify the export and verify that horses are fit to travel and will be transported humanely.