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Ongoing Pattern of Abuse Uncovered at California Livestock Auction
“These are serious violations of the California Penal Code, and they came to light during open visits to the Escalon Livestock Auction’s facility,” said Sonja Meadows, President of Animals’ Animals. “What is most telling is that the criminal activity occurs out in the open, showing Escalon Auction’s belief that it is above the law.”
During investigations in 2008 and 2009 members of Animals’ Angels documented numerous instances of blatant animal cruelty and animal welfare violations. In 2009 the group, in conjunction with representatives of the California Farm Bureau, the State Veterinarian, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the California Cattlemen Association and Escalon Auction management, discussed the findings of its investigations and developed a plan to improve conditions for the animals to be sold. The auction also agreed to hire a person to monitor the welfare of the animals.
Between 2010 and 2013, conditions seemed to be improving, but on a return investigation in 2014, Animals’ Angels documented further cases of flagrant mistreatment and horrific cruelty—all in violation of the agreed-upon treatment plan as well as California law.
In August 2014, Animals’ Angels found shocking abuse of several animals at the Escalon Auction – and perhaps more importantly, the complete indifference of the individuals responsible for ensuring humane treatment.
Animals’ Angels once again presented their findings to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office. The San Joaquin’s Sheriff’s Office investigated, but the county’s District Attorney’s Office again declined to press charges, saying that the auction had agreed to a new set of guidelines and promised to once more improve its treatment of the animals under its care.
“That seems to be an empty promise,” Sonja Meadows said. “The Auction’s return to the same illegal conduct that it had engaged in previously demonstrates that nothing short of prosecution will have any lasting effect on the animal cruelty that appears to have become standard operating procedure at Escalon.”
Animals’ Angels latest investigation found appalling violations during three separate visits to the Escalon Auction in July and August 2015.
On July 10, 2015, investigators witnessed auction workers violently pulling on the ear and then hind leg of a non-ambulatory calf in a cruel effort to make her move. Despite the fact that the workers were unable to get the calf to rise or walk, she was sold shortly after, and then loaded into the buyer’s truck.
California Penal Code Section 599f(a) states: “No slaughterhouse, stockyard, auction, market agency, or dealer shall buy, sell, or receive a non-ambulatory animal.”
On Aug. 5, 2015, investigators watched a non-ambulatory dairy cow unloaded from a trailer. The cow struggled to rise to its feet, but was unable to do so. The driver of the truck that had delivered the cow, along with an Escalon Auction employee, used an electric cattle prod in an apparent attempt to get her to stand, and when that didn’t work, kicked her as well.
When their efforts to force her to rise proved futile, the auction worker attempted to shoot the cow, but failed to check whether the device had really killed the animal. When the forks of the Bobcat being used to move the cow touched her, she reacted violently and began to struggle. Because of a gate blocking their view, investigators were unable to see what followed, but they believe the gun was used a second time. The motionless cow was then loaded onto the Bobcat’s forks and dumped in the back of the premises.
“This single incident, the treatment this one cow received before she was finally killed, includes several violations of California’s general anti-cruelty statute,” commented Sonja Meadows. “No animal should have to suffer what she endured before she died, and California law clearly prohibits this very type of treatment.”
On Aug. 7, 2015, investigators saw a non-ambulatory Holstein bull calf that was clearly taking rapid, shallow breaths. An auction worker dragged the calf to an area outside the livestock pens and left the calf on top of a garden hose, where the animal remained, vocalizing and struggling, for three hours. During that time auction workers stepped over the calf, and one even struck the calf with a paddle. It wasn’t until the auction’s barn manager saw Animals’ Angels investigators filming that action was taken. A worker started to lift the animal by the skin on the calf’s back before being told to carry it, most likely because investigators were filming. The calf was put in the bucket of a Bobcat and taken away.
“This documented incident again involved clear violations of California laws,” explained Meadows, “including California’s anti-cruelty statutes.”
On Sept. 14, 2015, Animals’ Angels submitted the extensive evidence investigators had gathered to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, and urged them once again to take this continued, egregious animal abuse seriously.
“To date, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office has done nothing,” Meadows continued. “No charges have been filed against Escalon Auction and thousands of animals passing through the sale every week continue to suffer.”
The acts that Animals' Angels documented, including other violations of California law, show that the auction is continuing to engage in unacceptable, cruel, illegal behavior.
According to Sonja Meadows, “If our investigators were able to see this much in only three visits, it’s clear the only way to possibly trigger a change in behavior, and the only way to improve the treatment of the animals at Escalon Auction, is to press criminal charges for these continued violations.”
“We’re not done with this fight,” Meadows said. “We are going to continue to push for something to be done to ensure that animals are no longer mistreated at Escalon Auction. It’s clear that non-enforceable, voluntary agreements are simply not enough. The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office must file criminal charges if anything is going to change.”
To read Animals' Angels full report, please go here:
Sonja Meadows, President