Animals’ Angels investigators returned to the well-known horse auction in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country on this sunny day in September. They attended the sale with a team of international journalists, who wanted to film the conditions at the sale for a documentary about the horse slaughter trade. The auction is operated by long term kill buyer Leroy Baker, who has a long history of violating countless horse protection regulations and has accumulated way over hundred thousand dollars’ worth of fines for shipping injured or blind horses and for horses dying in his transports to the slaughter plant.
However, his days as a kill buyer and auction owner might be numbered. Investigators immediately noticed that the auction pens were half empty and only approx. 40 horses were present. AA last visited the auction in January of 2018 and had already documented then that -compared to previous visits- the number of horses offered at the sale had drastically declined. They also found that Baker was buying almost no horses, when he used to purchase almost half of the animals at the sale. This observation matches the information Animals’ Angels received via a recent Freedom of Information Act Request: The paperwork showed that there were no horses shipped to Canada for slaughter by Baker. While it is too soon to confirm that Baker is out of the slaughter horse business, this is definitely a promising development.
Walking through the pen area, investigators saw the following: the majority of the horses were “slaughter” prospects, several were thin, many had neglected hooves, and some were limping. Horse #735 appeared to have a tooth abscess. Horse #742, a thin tattooed STB, was lame. Many of the horses were Standardbreds and appeared to be former buggy horses. Despite the fact that there were numerous empty pens, workers put 4-5 horses together in the smaller pens at the back of the barn, causing some horses to kick or bite. No water was available in any of those pens. Talking to some regulars, investigators were told that the auction had declined rapidly during the past few years, that most sellers had moved on to other sales and that now only “glue factory” horses would be brought in.
The sale started early at 1:12pm. The workers moved the horses closer to the ring in groups of 8-10, which caused the horses to panic right before the entrance to the ring. The handling was very poor, the worker mercilessly hit the frightened animals with his whip, even across their faces. Kill buyer Fred Bauer was buying most of the horses, Fisher Livestock from Pennsylvania also bought several. Leroy Baker again only bought a few horses, and those that he bought did seem to be for resale, not for slaughter. The sale ended at 2:03pm and everyone loaded their horses immediately.
When interviewed by the journalists after the sale, Baker immediately mentioned Animals’ Angels and how “he had almost been bankrupted” by the organization. Being his usual self, he defended the slaughter horse industry and had nothing good to say about “the activists”.
Animals’ Angels will continue to monitor the sale and Baker’s activities.