Due to the hard work of our team and the generous support of our donors, this past year provided significant improvements for animals across the globe. Animals' Angels has been able to once again increase the number of investigations, thereby increasing exposure, awareness, and education. Our 168 investigations included 6 countries, 20 US states and total of 20,000 miles driven over 219 days.
We began our EU Campaign in Switzerland this past February, and it gains momentum to this day. Our initial expose was designed to hit the industry where it hurts - at the demand level. We were able to document the appalling conditions at horse slaughter facilities in Canada, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay, all which supply horsemeat to Switzerland. We also provided evidence of the cruel treatment at US kill buyer collecting stations, feedlots, and slaughter auctions.
Read more about our EU Campaign here...
Our investigations aired on Swiss national television, featured by the popular news magazine Kassensturz
. The outcome was exactly as we had hoped; horsemeat sales drastically declined
. An outraged Swiss public created a firestorm that had large scale retailers, such as VOLG, Globus and COOP, immediately pulling their horse meat products from grocery shelves. The retailers discontinued to sell any horse meat originating from Canada, Mexico and Argentina.
Alarmed by the conditions documented by AA at the Bouvry horse feedlot in Canada, Switzerland's large scale meat importer Migros forced Bouvry to build a new feedlot strictly for the horses being shipped to Switzerland. It is expected to be ready in April, 2014.
Horsemeat products in Swiss grocery store
In Mexico, a strong anti-horse slaughter piece was aired using numerous Animals' Angels investigations. Milenio Television, one of Mexico's largest TV stations, chose to specifically target imports from the US showing our footage from both Southwest Livestock Auction and the Texas export pens. This was the first time horse slaughter had ever been reported on prime time television, and feedback from the TV station has been incredible.
Photo of dead horse at Texas export pen
The recent follow-up campaign in Argentina uncovered a large-scale stolen horse trade, which indicated involvement of some of Switzerland's largest horsemeat importers. Swiss prosecutors have been notified, and formal complaints against importer GVFI have been initiated. In addition, the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office (charged with inspecting horsemeat imports) has announced that it will now test ALL horsemeat imported from Argentina for Bute.
Horses on overcrowded trailer
Due to the enormous success of our EU Campaign, we will be extending our campaign in 2014 to include other horsemeat importing European countries. Animals' Angels conducted a 30 day follow up investigation in late 2013. This investigation revealed shocking and catastrophic conditions which will be released early in 2014.
In January, Animals' Angels obtained over 1,100 photographs and written documentation of horrific treatment of horses delivered, housed, and slaughtered at the Cavel slaughter plant in DeKalb, IL. The violations, injuries, conditions, and treatment were identical to documentation from the Beltex plant obtained by Animals' Angels in 2008. We were able to prove, once again, that horses bound for slaughter are treated with callous indifference whether slaughtered on American soil or transported across the borders.
USDA photo from Cavel investigation
In February, Animals' Angels uncovered and exposed grave discrepancies of BLM mortality rates. The BLM had been drastically under-reporting the actual number of horses and burros that died under their "care". Our expose was specifically addressed by Joan Guilfoyle, Head of the Wild Horse and Burro Program at March's BLM Advisory Board Meeting in Oklahoma. Guilfoyle tried to explain the underrepresentation of mortality records by claiming that only unmarked foals and young horses were included in the reports. Heather Jasinski, BLM Public Affairs Specialist, rationalized the discrepancy by claiming they didn't count stillbirths, aborted fetuses, newborns found dead, or horses that died before they were freeze marked. Jasinski did, however, admit that the "National WH&B Program was currently reviewing its reporting procedures for all aspects of the program and would modify them to correct any identified discrepancies."
Horse with BLM brand
In 2012, Animals' Angels investigators provided evidence that led to the indictment of Dennis Chavez (Southwest Livestock Auction, Los Lunas, NM). After waiting well over a year and a half, Chavez finally made it into court on November 25, 2013. Initially charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty carrying a sentence up to 11 years in prison, Chavez pleaded guilty only to "Failure to exhibit written evidence of ownership or legal possession of livestock" on the four emaciated and dying horses. He was sentenced to one year unsupervised probation and ordered to donate a minimum of $5,000 to one of the three horse rescue groups in NM.
Sonja Meadows with horse at Southwest Livestock Auction
In August, Animals' Angels launched a groundbreaking police training program in Eagle Pass, TX. This multi-jurisdictional training was attended by close to 50 police officers, as well as representatives from the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). We have already started to see the fruits of our labor, as DPS officers have been observed checking horse haulers along the Mexican border in Texas.
We are pleased that the high-ranking TX DPS officers who attended our training are keeping their promise to increase inspections of horse transporters and initiate compliance reviews. Multiple formal complaints have been filed with DOT, FMCSR violations have been documented, and citations have been issued.
Horse transport truck stopped by law enforcement
In October, Animals' Angels was honored to serve as keynote speakers at this year's Thundering Hooves event. We proudly shared information about, and alternatives to, horse slaughter with more than 2,000 attendees. The event was held in Santa Fe, NM, which was pertinent as residents of New Mexico are battling to prevent Valley Meats from opening a horse slaughter plant in Roswell. A resounding success, Thundering Hooves and Animals' Angels were featured in numerous state-wide publications.
Thundering Hooves Event in New Mexico
Kill buyer Dorian Ayache (Three Angels Farm)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had previously ordered all of Ayache's trucks and trailers to cease all commercial motor vehicle operations. This order applied to any and all vehicles owned, leased, rented, or otherwise operated by Ayache. The order also prohibited the use of said vehicles by any other motor carrier or driver, as all of Ayache's vehicles posed an "Imminent Hazard" to the safety of the public. Animals' Angels exposed the relationship between Dorian Ayache and David Merrell, and documented Ayache's vehicles being used by Merrell to transport horses to slaughter. We provided all proof to Tennessee authorities and are hopeful that our evidence will support the prosecution's side for Ayache's upcoming trial.
Animals' Angels footage was used in the hauntingly beautiful video for Lynny Prince's song, 'Ride it Out ~ A Song for Slaughter-Bound Horses'. Lynny became aware of Animals' Angels investigations last year at the inaugural Thundering Hooves event, which inspired her to write the song. A portion of the proceeds will go towards funding Animals' Angels future investigations.
See more on the video and song here...
We remain dedicated to our mission and believe that 2014 will be another stellar year. We anticipate yet another substantial increase in investigations, legal actions against perpetrators, and improvements for the animals we seek to protect. We also expect our groundbreaking training program to reach an even broader audience of law enforcement divisions. We are excited to share our police training program across the country and expect to create long-standing relationships with members of law enforcement.
Animals' Angels remains dedicated to the fight against cruelty and the mistreatment of farm animals and horses. And as 2014 ushers in the Year of the Horse, we will continue to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Our successes are your successes and we couldn't do our work without you. We thank you for your continued generosity, support and commitment.