Investigators returned to the Shipshewana Livestock Auction to determine if any improvements had been made since our last visit. AA has monitored this sale as well as the horse auction held at this location since 2009.
During previous investigations, Animals’ Angels investigators documented auction employees using helpless goats as targets for what appeared to be martial arts practice, kicking and striking the bodies and heads of the animals countless times. The video footage that was subsequently released garnered nationwide attention and resulted in the termination of the employee in question as well as a public apology by auction management. However, no cruelty charges were filed by the local police department who seemed uneager and unmotivated to pursue a case.
On May 26th, AA investigators arrived at the auction at 10:00 a.m. Although not yet summer, it was a sweltering day, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees. Behind the barn all of the Amish/Mennonite auction attendees had parked their buggies and the horses were baking in the blazing sun without access to water. Most of them were standing on the hot concrete, with their heads tied to the railing in front of them.
Inside the auction building, there was already a great deal of activity. Our investigators were quick to assess that conditions appeared to be the same since our last visit. There was no water available for any of the animals, no fans running above the pen area, and there were several extremely crowded pens holding beef cattle.
However, investigators also noted that the auction workers appeared to have been trained to better observe the people around them, especially those who might be watching from the catwalk as they were constantly looking up and around when moving animals. Investigators witnessed a significant difference in the handling of animals when workers apparently believed themselves unobserved as compared to when they obviously felt someone “suspicious” was watching their movements.
As in previous investigations, what stood out most to our investigators was the extremely poor condition of the “spent” dairy cows that had been brought to the auction to be sold to slaughter buyers. These animals were limping, emaciated skeletons with every bone visible.
Several had extremely full udders, showing that they had not been milked for some time before being brought to the auction. Numerous cows had their tails docked, a completely inhumane procedure requiring the amputation of up to two-thirds of the tail, typically performed without anesthetic. While this cruel practice is still permitted in most of the United States, it causes serious welfare problems including overall distress, severe pain, and increased fly attacks. Some of the cows had red dollar signs painted on their hips, in an apparent attempt to ridicule and mock their situation.
Most of the cows were standing quietly, obviously trying to avoid any type of movement. To make matters worse, slaughter cows are sold last, as is customary at many auctions, prolonging the time the cows are forced to suffer without even being allowed access to water. Once they were ready to be sold, several of the cows could barely make it through the auction ring due to their debilitating condition.
AA will notify the appropriate authorities of the conditions and behavior noted at this auction. In addition, we will continue to monitor this sale and strongly urge auction management to provide water to all of the animals as well as change the schedule so that slaughter cows are sold first thing in the morning so as to ease their suffering. We will also once again approach management with regards to the actions of their employees and adamantly encourage proper training in the handling of animals during the sale.