Animals suffered during convoy’s fight for so-called freedom

As the cleanup carries on following the end to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa, there is much to be dissected, discussed and determined. The issues that inspired the protest, and others that hitched a ride along the way, have revealed great disconnects within our country and our own communities. However, there seemed to be one incident that — at least for a brief moment — brought together some sides of the divide: when police rolled in on horseback.

Part of police tactics to bring the illegal protest in Ottawa to an end included the use of horses to physically move and break up crowds. Mounted police have long been utilized as a tool for crowd control in Canada, and beyond. But while there has been some debate in recent years about the amount of taxpayer money used to fund them ($5.9 million in Toronto alone last year), most condemnation of the use of horses by police has come only from animal advocates. We believe these sensitive and fearful animals are unfairly exploited, and should never be put in harm’s way. Last Friday though, our efforts against mounted police seemingly gained many new, and perhaps surprising, supporters.

On Friday, a Fox News contributor with over one million followers tweeted that a woman had died after being trampled by a Toronto police horse. A clip of the incident went viral with the help of far-right website Rebel News. It was soon revealed though, that the reports were false. The woman was injured, including a broken collarbone, not killed. But by then, the raging sentiment online among many pro-convoy folks was that police should never use horses in this way.

How interesting it was for me to receive so many messages and Tweets from people aghast about police horses — those poor horses! I have written on the topic before, including during Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., and had never seen such passion for the cause.

But, I then wondered, where was the outrage for the other poor horses who had been ridden by protesters through the crowds, amid incessant honking? Where was the concern for the poor dogs brought by protesters, forced to endure the noise and cold? Or for all the spooked pets living in the area?

The Ottawa Humane Society tweeted after it received reports about dogs and horses being brought to the protest, stating: “For any animal, prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, loud noises, road salt on paws or hooves, and inadequate access to food and water can threaten an animal’s well-being.” A local animal rescue group also offered temporary homes to “pets stressed by the occupation.” And this past weekend, Ottawa police reported that an abandoned dog had to be rescued from inside a truck.

Rebel News didn’t have much to say about those animals.

And what about all the farmed animals trapped in transport trucks who were reportedly delayed and rerouted due to protests at border crossings? Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told The Western Producer the blockades were “creating serious risks to animal welfare.” Indeed, these animals already bear to up to 36 hours in transport without food, water, rest or climate control. Delays only add to that cruelty.

A report from Fox News on the issue only covered concerns about supply chains and meat prices.

Alas, it appears the unfortunate police horses were not actually finding a new faction of animal-loving allies within the ranks of the freedom fighters. Rather, they were being exploited even further — to help push pro-protest and anti-police rhetoric.

Like the innocent children who were reportedly used as shields between protesters and police, so too were many animals unfairly forced into the fray as involuntary participants: Pets being stressed by protesters; horses being oppressed by police, then further exploited to push an agenda; and already victimized farmed animals enduring added cruelty due to blockades, suffering in the name of “freedom.” All this at the hands of those who already have so much, while they have so little.

Jessica Scott-Reid is a freelance writer and animal advocate.