Group loses legal bid to force food inspectors to scrutinize horses exported for human consumption

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      A Federal Court of Canada judge has ensured that thousands of horses may continue to be shipped from airports in Western Canada every year to Japan so they can be eaten by human beings.

      Earlier this month, Justice Keith M. Boswell dismissed an application by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition to force the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to apply two Health of Animals Regulations regarding how horses are shipped by air.

      "The Coalition has not proven that a public legal duty to act exists, which is the first requirement for an order of mandamus to be issued," Boswell wrote in his decision. "Subsection 141(8) and paragraph 142(a) of the HAR do not impose any obligation on the CFIA. The obligations imposed by these two provisions fall upon the owners and those in charge of the crates and containers used to transport horses.

      "The CFIA’s role is to ensure that the HAR are enforced, which is within its discretionary power," the judge continued. "The Coalition has not shown how the CFIA failed to fulfill its legal obligation to act."

      According to the coalition, 4,846 horses were exported from Canada to Japan in 2017 so that they could be slaughtered for human consumption.

      One of the challenged regulations requires animals to be segregated from one another; the other ensures that horses' heads not touch any roof or deck when standing while being transported.

      According to the coalition, the CFIA has allowed large horses to be shipped in a manner that violates both of these regulations.

      In dismissing these arguments, Boswell ruled that an affidavit by the coalition's executive director, Helen Sinikka Crossland, was inadmissible. That's because it didn't meet the requirements for admitting new evidence in a judicial-review application.

      Moreover, he noted that "the impugned provisions of the HAR will be repealed on February 20, 2020".

      Video: Learn about the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

      One of the coalition's team members, Shelley Grainger, stated on the group's website that it's seriously considering an appeal.

      "The evidence was clear to us: laws were being broken," she stated. "But the judge decided that the obligations imposed by the applicable sections of the HAR have no bearing on the CFIA, but rather on the exporters and owners of the horses."

      A Nanos Research poll earlier this year found that 64 percent of 1,033 respondents had a problem with the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

      The same poll showed that 68 percent of respondents were either uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with the slaughter of horses that were exported for human consumption.

      "People are surprised to learn that horses are being slaughtered in Canada, and perhaps even worse, they are being exported, by air, in crammed conditions, to Japan to be slaughtered for meat," the coalition's lawyer, Rebeka Breder, said after the legal action was launched last year.