When I was six years old, my parents took me to my first Stampede parade. I remember them getting us there bright and early to “grab a good spot” for our lawn chairs.
My little brother was not quite a year old and my mother had him bundled up inside what I can only describe as some sort of picnic basket.
My grandparents met us there with thermoses filled with hot coffee, sandwiches cut up into triangles and a jar filled with radishes from their little city garden.
It is a good memory.
The floats and the marching bands and the Shriners in their little hats driving their little cars. The biggest draw for everyone though, was the horses.
Hundreds of them sauntering past us — decorated in the finest bridles and saddles and blankets — scrubbed as clean as a horse can be; braided manes and tails, heads held high. They clopped along 9th Ave. the pride of every Indigenous tribal nation and every cowboy and cowgirl.
The mighty horse, symbol of the west. I remember the boys with shovels picking up steaming piles of horse poo. Everybody clapped from the curb, cheering them on.
It’s a good memory.
The majestic horse who for centuries has pulled wagons filled with pioneers and all their beloved belongings; the horse who plowed fields and pulled stumps and moved giant logs down the sides of mountains — horses who fought alongside us in every war we’ve ever waged. Horses who have carried men on their backs to every corner of the world, loyally and steadfastly and without fail, served the people of this and every other country on the planet for thousands of years. The intrepid horse, pride of Alberta.
Remember this classic famous cowboy creed: A cowboy never eats his horse. Caveat: But it’s OK if somebody else halfway ’round the world does.
It’s a modern tragedy.
Thousands upon thousands of young, healthy, large draft horses are bred here, or brought up from the United States, to be FLOWN, three or four at a time in flimsy wooden crates from Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg to Japan, at least once if not twice a month — whether it’s forty below or not — so they can be eaten as Bashimi. It’s a very expensive type of sashimi, which is eaten by rich clients. For those of you still wondering what that is — it’s raw horse.
I’ve been to the loading of the horses many times at YYC. Stood there and tried to catch a glimpse of them being forced into their death crates. They make sounds I’ll never forget. It’s the sound of defeat and fear and loss. It’s the sound of betrayal. We have raised them to trust us.
A handful of guys are getting very rich.
They’ll tell you the horses go gladly.
That they sleep on the plane.
These horses endure turbulence. No food. No water, they can’t lift their heads up.
It’s one of the most sinister parts of Canadian agriculture, and one they don’t want you to know about.
Go to www.horseshit.ca to help us end this shameful, cruel business.
Jann Arden is a Calgary-based musician and activist.