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HWAC Responds to Concerns About Horse Welfare

Occasionally we receive letters of concern about the welfare of horses and the work being done by HWAC within the animal agriculture and equine industries. This is the response to some of the concerns presented.

HWAC, an alliance of provincial equine organizations and farm animal care groups was developed in 2008 in response to voids in the equine (livestock) industry that were not being addressed by existing organizations. HWAC’s purpose is the dissemination of accurate information related to the Canadian horse industry, to horse owners, the general public and legislators.

Our primary objective is to promote the humane handling of horses throughout all their stages of life. On our web site you will find HWAC developed programs including:

We also promote other industry programs including:

We work closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and continuously lobby for adherence to regulations. We provide outreach via the web site, articles and media releases and participate in horse industry conferences and events to promote horse welfare practices at all levels of horse production.

Horse processing is an economically feasible end of life option for horse owners. We believe and statistics bear us out, that to ensure the well being of our animals we must provide viable end of life options. Also note that all horses going to processing are not unwanted or at end of life, there is a segment of the horse industry that breeds and raises horses solely for human food consumption. Horse processing is a legal and viable industry in Canada – in fact, horsemeat is our third largest exported meat.

Horse owners, caregivers, handlers, enforcement personnel, regulators, animal activist and the equine industry all have a role to play in ensuring horses are treated humanely and with respect throughout their lives. This includes on farm, during transport and at end of life, including processing. Our responsibility as a horse welfare organization is to develop and promote the necessary training programs and resources for all those involved in the equine industry to ensure the animals are receiving the best care possible.

Animal activists have a responsibility to accurately and immediately report any known cases of animal abuse or neglect. They must work with the animal agriculture industry to correct the situation and ensure all animals are receiving the care needed and sending the message that abuse in any situation will not be tolerated. This can be quite challenging though, as we work to sort out emotional based concerns from actual animal welfare concerns. This is difficult within the equine industry, more so than other industries as horses are identified in a number of ways – as companion animals, production animals, recreation animals, sporting animals or meat animals. Their identity often changes as their owner changes. No matter how someone identifies with the horse, or their purpose (breeding, competition, meat production) all horses must be treated humanely and with respect.

The equine industry will not stand by someone who intentionally abuses or neglects animals in any environment. It is the industry’s responsibility to fully investigate, assist with corrective action and support prosecution if necessary.

We also are very concerned about the consequences of irresponsible breeding programs. We believe this is a matter of horse owner education, though those who require the education are often the hardest to reach. HWAC will be developing and presenting education programs within the horse industry including but not limited to breed associations, educators and horse owners to promote responsible breeding programs. Identification of the horse is one of the elements that will contribute to the education and management of breeding.

I hope we have responded appropriately to your concerns and have done so on behalf of our partners and constituents which number in access of 100,000 horse owners in Canada.

– the HWAC team