Investigation Updates

August 2, 2012

Animals' Angels
 PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158

Tennessee Auction feeds slaughter market


The Knoxville Livestock Center in Mascot, TN, holds a monthly horse sale every 2nd Sat of the month at 4:00pm. When investigators arrived for the July 14th sale, they immediately noticed pens so packed full of horses that there was a lot of fighting and kicking. Investigators counted more than 400 horses in the vast pen area.


slaughter pens 2 Typical to other large sales, riding horses were housed much better than the "slaughter prospects". Even though other empty pens were available, the horses in the kill pens were crammed in tightly and, for at least 9 hours, had no access to water. The temperature soared at 90 degrees; it was hot and very humid. Only one fan was present and it faced away from the pens, rendering it completely useless for the horses.


 The condition in which some of the slaughter-bound horses arrived, was very poor. Several were emaciated with fresh injuries. Horses particularly noted were a grey mare with blood on her muzzle, a grey mare with a cut on her hip, and a bay gelding with open wounds around his nostrils.


 emaciated grey mareQuietly standing amid one of the crowded pens, was a skeleton of a grey mare. She appeared tired and weak and held her head low.


While documenting, investigators also found 2 terrified young foals in one of the pens. One foal was so young (approximately 4 months), that it desperately tried to nurse on the foal next to it.


Prior to the horse sale, the large rigs of slaughter buyers/horse traders Rotz Livestock (PA), Birdsong Farms (GA), and Sexton's Horse and Mule Farms (TN) were backed to the loading ramps.


Rotz Livestock, who is one of Pennsylvania's largest kill buyers shipping approximately 6,000 horses to slaughter per year, has already violated the Commercial Transport to Slaughter Regulations several times (Cases: #NY07290, #PA08035, #PA08036, #PA08038). Rotz made it into the national news earlier this year for buying ex-race horses from PA horse trainer Kelsey LeFever , that she had taken in under the pretense of finding them a good home. Only days after LeFever took them from their former owners, they were on Rotz's slaughter truck to Canada.


Rotz Livestock and Birdsong FarmsBirdsong Farms, also a longtime slaughter hauler, violated the Commercial Transport to Slaughter Regulations on four different occasions, receiving a $3,050 fine (Case #IL07035, #IL07036, #IL07037, #IL07185).In addition to these slaughter buyers, other known horse traders from Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia were also present at the sale.


As the sale started, workers began moving the horses closer to the sales ring. While the riding horses were handled in a calm fashion, the handling of the slaughter horses was completely different. Gates were being slammed on horses' heads and hind legs, with horses slipping and falling more than once.


Once the riding horses were sold, the scale was activated, and the weight of each horse was displayed as it moved through the ring. The auctioneer announced that all horses marked with spray paint were "medicine free". Investigators watched as the bone-thin grey mare staggered through the auction ring. Nobody, not even the slaughter buyers, wanted her.


slaughter horses at KnoxvilleIn all, over 400 horses sold in about 6 hours, and the slaughter buyers all scored full loads. Investigators approached a middle aged pen worker inquiring about the fate, and ownership, of the emaciated grey mare. Investigators were given excuses like, "The auction owner isn't present, we won't make a decision, the owner will pick her up", "It is not the auction's responsibility", and so forth. Moving through the excuses, investigators instructed the workers to provide the mare water at a minimum, which she eagerly drank.


Although the sale ended at 10:00pm, Rotz Livestock didn't load until 1:15am. Birdsong Farms loaded at 1:30am. Sexton Horse & Mule Farms didn't load while investigators were present, and the emaciated grey mare had not been picked up when investigators left at 2:30am.


As an overall picture, this is just another sad stop for AA investigators. We travel across the country to auctions operating in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We document the ugly plight of the slaughter-bound horse, and factually relay the story of the horses marked for death. Every time we put another place on the map, another little piece of pro-slaughter propaganda crumbles and horse slaughter is exposed once more for the cruel and predatory business that it is.



What is the price tag for suffering?


Joe Simon, from Webster, MN is one of the nation's larger kill buyers. He has been in the horse slaughter business for a very long time and, despite an endless list of violations, he is not showing any signs of slowing down. Joe Simon operates Joe Simon Enterprises Inc., the JS Horse Company and several other companies in Minnesota and Oklahoma.



Simon Collection Station
Simon Collecting Station

The Double JJ Horse Company, one of the companies linked to Joe Simon, acquires thousands of horses every year at auctions across the country and ships them to Mexico for slaughter via the Presidio export pens.


What else do we know about Joe Simon? We know that very few people violate the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act as often as he does. When we look at USDA Case # TX-04228, we note that this case includes 70 different violations, 12 of which involved horses dying during transport, and/or obtaining the most horrific injuries imaginable.




Joe Simon Grey MareSlaughter Tag #3522: Grey mare, broken left hind leg with multiple fractures somewhere between the stifle and fetlock, "went down twice in trailer" while in transport, and was down in trailer upon arrival. The mare was euthanized via gunshot on the trailer upon arrival at the slaughter plant.


Slaughter Tag #5304: Chestnut,broken left rear leg."Horse completely severed its leg between ankle and hock. Leg bone was broken in half." This incident occurred when the horse slipped into a gap at the ramp leading to the upper level of Simon's double decker trailer.Plant workers used a pipe to pry the leg out, the horse then hobbled off the trailer at the plant and was slaughtered.


Slaughter Tag #5922: Bay Quarterhorse gelding, completely blind in both eyes.


Slaughter Tag #1997: Bay gelding, broken right hind leg, dead in trailer upon arrival. Showed signs of rigor mortis.


Slaughter Tag #5013: Stallion, not segregated from other horses, dead in trailer upon arrival.  

Broken Hind LegSlaughter Tag# 2246: Chestnut Quarterhorse gelding, three-legged (unable to put weight on all four legs) due to existing injury on left front leg. Slaughtered upon arrival.


Slaughter Tag #9326: Severe cuts on hind legs, obtained when leg became lodged in hole towards the bottom of the trailer. "The photographs of the wounded leg indicated active arterial bleeding over a six hour period."


The court transcript from this case reads like a horror story. Simon's own drivers described "blood on the trailer" and "horses raising hell", while the USDA staff documented bone fragments and blood spatter patterns inside the trailers.


Although Thomas Bolick (USDA Office of General Counsel) requested a total fine of $84,625 for all associated violations, the ultimate civil penalty imposed by the court on August 15, 2009 was only $36,500. AA is currently researching the status of this fine.

Only a few years later, Joe Simon found his way into the courthouse defending himself, yet again, against 6 similar violations. On July 15, 2011, a settlement was negotiated and a civil penalty of $24,000 was assessed, to be paid in 48 convenient installments of $500.00. As a special treat, the settlement includes every non-adjudicated violation of the regulation committed by Joe Simon up to the effective date of the order.


Presidio Export Pens
Presidio Export Pens

Is this punishment enough for all the suffering? Was the price tag for these violations high enough to be a deterrent? The answer most likely is no. The Double JJ Horse Company continues to ship multiple loads of horses, thousands of miles, every week to the pens at the border to Mexico. Mexican import documents show that Double JJ generally ships around 150 horses per month and collects over $60,000.


Without better and more frequent enforcement, without higher fines, without more effective tools available, such as barring a notorious shipper from ever obtaining another slaughter tag, and USDA/APHIS conducting unannounced inspections at private loading points, shippers like Simon will just continue to do what they have always done.


It is time to increase the pressure on USDA to do what is right and to improve enforcement of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations. And Joe Simon? You can rest assured Animals' Angels will continue to ensure he has all the time in the spotlight he deserves.

























In this issue
1. TN Auction feeds slaughter market
2. What is the price tag for suffering?
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Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants.



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