The investigators arrived at the weekly livestock auction at 1:00 pm. The sale had already started and the parking lot was crowded with stock trailers. Two vehicles displaying the Florida Department of Agriculture seal were parked next to the barn. The investigators entered the barn and accessed the catwalk overlooking the pen area. There were approximately 500 animals present, mainly younger “feeder” cows and bulls, but also a few cows with babies by their side, and several groups of “slaughter” cows. None of the pens visible from the catwalk had access to water. Several of the pens were quite overcrowded, leaving the animals no room to lie down and rest.
As investigators approached the area where the animals were prepared to enter the auction ring, they noted that all employees were using electric prods to move the animals forward.
According to Dr. Temple Grandin, electric prods should be replaced as much as possible with alternative driving aids such as flags, plastic paddles, and a stick with plastic ribbons attached to it. An electric prod should NOT be a person’s primary driving tool. It should only be picked up and used when absolutely required to move a “stubborn” animal and then put back down. People should NOT be constantly carrying electric prods.
To make matters worse, several handlers were observed using the electric prod excessively in sensitive areas, such as the face of the animal. Investigators watched as a group of six slaughter cows was moved closer to the chute leading to the auction ring. The group consisted of cows with and without horns, which is problematic, especially in stressful environments. The agitated animals often use their horns when fighting for space, and animals without horns in the same pen have no way to defend themselves. When the group was placed into the pen before the chute, one of the cows with long, sharp horns attacked the cow next to her and pushed her horns into the other cow’s side. The poor animal moaned in distress and tried to get away from her attacker. She finally managed to escape, but the horns had left two bleeding marks behind.
Several of the other slaughter cows were in poor condition, some were limping, some were emaciated and others had large tumors. Animals’ Angels will send a report with our findings to auction management strongly urging them to improve the handling of the animals and to provide water in certain pens. We will continue to monitor this auction.