In February, Animals’ Angels returned to the Escalon Livestock Auction in California. For years, AA has documented the poor treatment of animals at this sale and numerous complaints have been filed. Observations included cows who were unable to rise being pushed with gates, excessively shocked with electric prods, or simply left to suffer for hours - often left to die alone - on the auction’s dead pile.
However, it should be noted that the fate of the other animals consigned to this sale wasn’t much better. Our investigations have shown neglect and cruelty across the board. Calves, barely breathing but still alive, were discarded like trash. Pigs, goats, and sheep were excessively hit, shocked with electric prods, dragged by their legs or tails, and needlessly kicked.
The evidence presented to California authorities caused a formal investigation by the San Joaquin Sheriff’s office and several meetings with other California authorities. Unfortunately, the District Attorney’s Office did their best to ignore the staggering amounts of incidents of cruelty and declined to pursue the case, claiming that the auction promised improvement. However, as a result of the public exposure brought on by AA’s publicized reports, several large-scale buyers terminated their relationship with the sale barn.
Since that time, AA has continued to monitor the development at the sale and any changes that have been made by management. During our last visit in February of 2018, investigators immediately noticed that there were several improvements at the bird sale. All animals had small water containers in their cages and all of them looked clean and had been filled with water. All rabbits were put in individual cages.
Prior to the sale, the auctioneer made an announcement regarding treatment of the animals at the sale, emphasizing that the auction would take the welfare of the animals sold seriously. Among other things, he pointed out that management no longer allowed the transport of birds in bags or in the trunks of cars. All animals purchased would have to be transported in appropriate cages, otherwise the buyer would not be allowed to claim the animal from the sale. He further stated that the animals would sell per cage and would not be removed from the cage for individual sale, which reduces the stress of being handled significantly.
Inside the main large-animal area, the pens were already crowded with sheep, goats, calves, pigs, and cows. Even here some positive changes were noted, especially in handling. Calves were not dragged by their legs but carried or led around instead. No electric prods were observed at all. The moving paddle was used with its intended purpose and not like a poker. A cow that arrived limping, was immediately segregated into a pen by herself.
All the changes observed during this investigation were in fact recommendations that AA had made to Escalon management multiple times. While it is too early to assume these changes are here to stay, or if more positive developments are forthcoming, we also believe that it is necessary to give credit where credit is due. The improvements observed during this visit are a step in the right direction. AA will continue to keep a close eye on this sale to see if these improvements are long-lasting.