By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
The Humane Society of the United States says it videotaped two sick cows at the Clovis Livestock Auction during an investigation.
Two ill cows were filmed for five hours. One “was suffering from obvious pain, flailing her legs as she expelled watery feces into the pen where other cows were held for auction,” according to a news release from HSUS.
During April and May, humane society investigators visited livestock auctions in four states as part of an expanding undercover investigation into livestock auctions and stockyards around the country, the release said.
Charlie Rogers, owner-manager of the Clovis Livestock Auction, said his facility handles about 2,000 animals a week and has a no-downer policy, which means nonambulatory animals are not accepted.
Animals that are not fit are euthanized, he said.
“We do not unload cows that we think won’t be strong enough to go through the sale,” he said.
The animal that was filmed likely deteriorated after she arrived, he said. “Who knows why. As human beings we can get sick suddenly; so can animals,” he said.
Rogers said as soon as he learned the animal was ill, she was euthanized.
In 22 years of business, Rogers said he has never before had a complaint about his treatment of animals.
“I’m just as concerned with handling animals properly or more concerned than anybody,” he said. “My job is to see that these cows are handled properly for the consignors. If I don’t, the consignors won’t be back.”
The Humane Society said in the release it brought preliminary evidence of the alleged abuse to the attention of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer last week, and that Schafer promised to examine the issue.
Downed cattle may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.
The humane society investigation into downer cows follows January’s undercover video of animals being tortured at the Westland/Hallmark slaughter plant in Chino, Calif., the release said.
The investigation of that plant, a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program, resulted in the recall of 143 million pounds of meat and the shuttering of the plant.
The Livestock Exchange (LSX) in Hereford, Texas, was also cited in the investigation for mistreatment of downer cows.
According to the release, two downed cows left in the parking lot at the Livestock Exchange in Hereford were filmed for four hours. The animals were so sick they could not lift their heads, the release said.
Randy Bouldin, owner of LSX, which processes around 800 dairy cattle a week, said he is concerned about the allegations and works hard to ensure diligent, humane treatment of cows at the auction. It is not uncommon for a nonambulatory animal to be discovered following transport, he said.
Policy dictates a downed animal be humanely euthanized in a timely manner, he said. Carcasses are placed in a specific location where they are picked up daily from the facility by a rendering plant, Bouldin said.
Wayne Pacelle, the humane society’s president and chief executive, said his organization had received a complaint about the Texas facility. He said the New Mexico facility was chosen because it was close to Hereford.