B.C. Horse Angels: 20 years of passion to rescue horses from a 'horrific' fate - InfoNews

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B.C. Horse Angels: 20 years of passion to rescue horses from a 'horrific' fate

Belinda Lyall and 'Pearl'
April 15, 2019 - 6:30 PM

NORTH OKANAGAN - Standing among the rolling pastures of the Okanagan Valley, quietly brushing a couple of very friendly horses who playfully fight for more attention from Belinda Lyall, it's hard to imagine the future Pearl and Buck could have faced.

But Lyall tells a troubling story about what may have happened to Pearl and Buck if she had not stepped in. The Salmon Arm resident runs B.C. Horse Angels from a property on the outside of town and has spent the last 20 years campaigning for the rights of horses.

"It's all I ever wanted since I was eight years old," she says.

She launched B.C. Horse Angels in 2017 and has rescued more than 50 horses in that time. The horses that end up with Lyall are generally malnourished and in poor shape, and often scared of humans.

A recent case outside of Vernon saw 42 horses seized by the B.C. SPCA from a property owned by Carla Christman. The B.C. SPCA has said it's "highly likely" Christman will face charges over the condition the animals were in. In 2012 she pled guilty to a charge of "failing to provide necessaries for an animal."

Lyall says she recently adopted some of Christman's horse - prior to the seizure - but while high profile animal cruelty cases are relatively rare, a much bigger horse meat industry exists and that's what Lyall rescues most of her horses from.

While Lyall considers herself about "98 per cent" vegan and doesn't agree with the slaughter of any animals, she does believe horses are different.

"Horses are not raised for human consumption, and to see a horse that comes up to you trusting, because it's been trained to trust people, begging you to get them out, it's like slaughtering dogs," she said. "Anybody who knows horses can understand there's no way they can make mass slaughter humane, it's not possible."

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency 54,100 horses were slaughtered in Canada in 2016 about half the number slaughtered a decade before. Numbers for 2017 are now listed as "confidential."

Lyall said most people have no idea such an industry exists. Lyall went to her first auction in 2002 in Kamloops and was disturbed by what she saw. She now heads to the auctions to try to outbid "kill buyers" who sell the horses for meat.

"The inhumanity and the betrayal is horrific," said Lyall.

Horse meat for human consumption needs to be slaughtered in a federally regulated slaughterhouse if it's to be sold out of the province. Lyall says most of the horses once sold to "kill buyers" in B.C. will be shipped to Alberta where one of only four federally regulated slaughterhouses exist. From there the meat is shipped largely to France and Switzerland.

According to the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition horses are also shipped live to Japan and in 2018 more than 7,000 horses were airlifted to Japan to be slaughtered.

With horses living to around 30 years old and costing upwards of $350 a month to board, Lyall says she also rescues horses that people no longer want or can afford.

"People like the idea, but then they can't catch the horse... can't ride them," she said.

She currently has 37 horses, which she estimates cost around $150 each a month to keep. A recent increase in the price of hay is taking its toll on her financially. Prices for the horses vary from a few hundred dollars upwards and she tries to fund her operation with adoption fees that range from $500 to $700.

Lyall said even a lot of horse people don't realize an industry exists and sell their horses to "brokers" who they don't realize will re-sell them for meat. When Lyall adopts a horse out, she religiously asks for identification, making sure the animal is going to a good home and not someone who will re-sell the horse for meat.

However, things may be starting to change. Lyall has written to many politicians and has caught the ear of Liberal MLA Tracy Redies. She has an appointment to discuss a possible Bill with the Surrey-White Rock MLA later this month. And a federal petition to halt live air shipments of horse for human consumption has been put forward by a Liberal MP in Ontario and remains open till June.

For Lyall, rescuing horses is part of who she is.

"This is all I do and all I think about 24 hours a day seven days a week for the last 20 years," she said. "Once enough people know... how these horses [are] treated nobody would stand for this."

For more information about BC Horse Angels go here.

Rescued horses 'Buck' (left) and Pearl enjoy lunch.
Rescued horses 'Buck' (left) and Pearl enjoy lunch.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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