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.
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.
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.
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.
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."