In Like a Lion

Animals' Angels
PO Box 1056 Westminster, MD 21158

February 2014 
Animals' Angels Hit the Ground Running at Start of New Year


We're thrilled that the omnibus spending bill was signed into law. While this outcome restores the ban on using federal monies to inspect horse slaughter facilities, it does NOT mean our horses are safe.  They still need our help.  This is no time to rest and we, at Animals' Angels, are steadily thinking ahead.  It is more important than ever to continue diligently monitoring our borders to document exactly WHY the transport for slaughter must be permanently banned.  We must continue to acquire factual documentation to show our lawmakers the atrocities that U.S. horses are regularly subjected to in the slaughter pipeline. We remain dedicated to exposing the harsh truth behind horse slaughter and the transport of slaughter-bound horses.  Until the SAFE Act (S. 541, H.R. 1094) is passed our horses are still at risk to these stark realities.


The Transport of Slaughter Horses from Bruce Rotz to the Richelieu Plant 


Bruce Rotz has been a mainstay in the slaughter industry for years and is one of Pennsylvania's most active kill buyers.  He ships nearly 400 horses to the Richelieu slaughter plant in Quebec each month.  Rotz is equally notorious for his frequent mishaps, including the Kelsey LeFever scandal and, more recently, the terrible accident in which a trailer-full of slaughter horses were all burned alive. Read more on the accident here. Our most recent investigation of Bruce Rotz & his shippers was disturbing to say the least.


Rotz Livestock Collecting Station


As Animals' Angels investigators arrived at Rotz's collecting station in Shippensburg, PA for our January 13th investigation, the blue tractor trailer of Kentucky's Waugh Livestock (DOT 2380769) pulled away from the loading ramp. Investigators believed that the Waugh trailer was unloaded with horses likely from the recent horse auction in Knoxville, TN. After unloading, the driver parked the trailer next to Rotz's obviously new semi in front of the barn. Although investigators monitored the collecting station, no further activity was seen. At 8:00 a.m. the following morning, investigators noted that the Waugh truck was gone and Rotz's new pickup truck and stock trailer were parked next to the semi. Shortly after noon, a black Vernla (DOT 935767) truck/trailer with Canadian plates arrived at the property. Moments later, a black Guy D'Anjou (DOT 1539636) truck/trailer, also with Canadian plates, arrived and immediately backed to the loading ramp. Investigators observed the loading, which completed at 1:15 p.m. The D'Anjou driver departed at 1:46 p.m. with investigators following. 



After unloading, the driver parked the trailer next to Rotz's obviously new semi in front of the barn.  Although investigators monitored the collecting station, no further activity was seen.  At 8:00 a.m. the following morning, investigators noted that the Waugh truck was gone and Rotz's new pickup truck and stock trailer were parked next to the semi.  Shortly after noon, a black Vernla (DOT 935767) truck/trailer with Canadian plates arrived at the property.  Moments later, a black Guy D'Anjou (DOT 1539636) truck/trailer, also with Canadian plates, arrived and immediately backed to the loading ramp.  Investigators observed the loading, which completed at 1:15 p.m.  The D'Anjou driver departed at 1:46 p.m. with investigators following.   

Following D'Anjou truck

Leaving Rotz's premises, the truck driver stopped twice within the first four hours of transport, yet failed to check the well-being of the horses. The investigators were able to check on the horses themselves when the driver grabbed dinner several hours later at 8:15 p.m. and witnessed that thankfully all the horses were still standing. However, they were holding their heads low and appeared very tired. Ten and a half hours into the drive, the driver pulled over to sleep for the night at 11:16 p.m., leaving the horses in the trailer -- thereby adding unnecessary hours to their already lengthy transport time.  At this point in the night, the temperature had dropped down to a frigid 23 degrees which had to add to the horses' distress.  When the driver began the next leg of the trip the following morning at 5:30 a.m., the horses had already been inside the trailer for more than 16 hours.  

Horse inside trailer
Horse inside dark trailer
D'Anjou's driver arrived at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) office that morning at 7:21 a.m.  After a short wait the two other trucks seen at Rotz's collecting station the previous day, each with their own respective trailers in tow, arrived as well. Slaughter horses can only enter at designated ports of entry, which are staffed by CFIA veterinarians.  CFIA inspectors briefly examined the horses inside the three trailers. And despite having the facilities to unload and thoroughly check each horse in the shipment, CFIA personnel took only brief looks inside the D'Anjou trailer via ladder.  
Trucks at CFIA
Trucks at CFIA Inspection Station

Investigators continued to follow the D'Anjou truck when it left the CFIA office at 9:29 a.m. until it arrived at the Richelieu plant at 11:15 a.m. stopping just once prior to arrival.  It was there that they observed the horses being unloaded. The total amount of time the horses had been in the trailer came to a shocking 22 hours.   


D'Anjou truck at Richelieu Plant

The Viande Richelieu plant is owned by Bouvry Exports (Calgary), and is a major supplier of horsemeat throughout Europe.  Although being subjected to EU regulations, the Richelieu plant has acquired a terrible reputation for animal abuse and improper handling.  Animals' Angels first began monitoring this slaughter facility in 2007 when we discovered workers using electric prods to move horses into the kill box.  In addition, it was uncovered that some of the horses were never even rendered unconscious before being hung and bled out.  The official stance given by Richelieu representatives is that transports of slaughter horses to their plant are always less than 12 hours, a claim which after our last investigation now has proven to be a lie. We will be presenting our recent findings to the EU as part of our rigorous 2014 campaign.


No Birds Singing in Georgia  


John Birdsong, one of Georgia's most prolific kill buyers has garnered quite a sordid history of violating the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulations.  He began earning his tarnished record when he used to ship horses to the Cavel plant in DeKalb, IL.  It was there that he was known to ship lame horses and non-segregated stallions. Birdsong also racked up a laundry list of fines for downed & dying horses arriving on his trailers.  Several cases were so severe that the injured horses had to be euthanized inside the trailer while at the slaughter plant.  


Birdsong horses arriving down at Cavel plant



Graphic video footage from Cavel (viewer discretion is advised) shows a grossly emaciated mare struggling to walk into the plant on three legs.  Birdsong never received more than a slap on the wrist and a measly $3,050 fine for all of this suffering.  Once the Cavel plant closed, Birdsong continued operating under a blanket of anonymity by using external haulers, such as Charles Carter (CO) and Randy Ray (KY), to transport his horses. Despite the fact that Birdsong's horses are now shipped to the Texas export pens, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no official records of any of his horses.  He also was recently inspected by the Equine Division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, who found severely emaciated horses (BCS 1.35) on his property but took no action against him.  


Downed horses inside trailer


Our most recent investigation of Birdsong took place in November 2013. Animals' Angels spotted Birdsong at the Knoxville Auction in Tennessee on November 23rd, his truck and trailer were seen parked with several very emaciated horses already on board.  Birdsong added newly purchased horses from the auction onto the trailer and left the parking lot at 7:20 p.m.


Read more on our November 2013 Knoxville investigation here.  


Birdsong truck at Knoxville Auction
Investigators followed his truck back to his collecting station in Carrollton, GA, where he keeps his horses prior to shipment to Mexico.  At the back of the property next to the pens is a composting area that Birdsong uses to discard dead horses.  
Horses on Birdsong trailer


On January 15, 2014, Animals' Angels received a 156-page FOIA response regarding Birdsong's past IES cases. While reviewing Birdsong's violations, a common theme kept repeating itself:  "Emaciated," "debilitated,"  "manure build up on trailer," and "difficult footing."

Some of Birdsong's specific violations (Cavel) are noted here:

  • Horse with backtag USBR 5107 - down and unable to rise.  Euthanized on trailer.    
  • 2 sorrel mares (backtags not affixed) down on trailer lying on top of one another.  "One had an eye injury" and "temperatures were sub-zero with noticeable frost on down horses."  Top horse was "too weak to get up and was euthanized with a captive bolt" on the trailer, the bottom horse was already dead.     
  • Horse with backtag USDE 5682 - sorrel mare barely able to walk into plant before dropping instantly.  Horse was in "very poor condition being extremely thin over the ribs, backbone, and ilium, rapid breathing and a depressed and weakened state to the extent the horse was unable to right itself."  "This mare was absolutely in no condition to be loaded and hauled in a trailer for a long distance."  This mare was "euthanized with captive bolt and condemned on ante-mortem for being in a moribund state."    

  • Horse with backtag USDE 5681 - sorrel mare "extremely emaciated with extremely poor musculature, including the hindquarters and bony prominences were protruding all over the body".  She was a "three-legged horse, the right carpus was swollen, and horse could only place weight on the tip of its toe."  "The horse was in such bad shape that it was euthanized on ante-mortem with a captive bolt."     



Without our intervention, kill buyers like Rotz and Birdsong will continue to ship and trade unfit horses.  They are direct contributors to the unnecessary and inhumane suffering the horses are forced to endure.  This is simply unacceptable.  They cannot be allowed to continue operating above the law and under the radar.  Whether the authorities are oblivious to these practices, or simply indifferent, Animals' Angels will continue to monitor, expose and report these gross violations.  

In this Issue

1. Slaughter Horse Transport to Richelieu


2. John Birdsong Investigation


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Animals' Angels is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible.
sonja filming export pens
Sonja filming
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About us

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.



Animals' Angels Inc.

PO Box 1056

Westminster, MD 21158



[email protected]