Step Up Probe of Sale Barn Livestock Abuses

Albuquerque Journal Editorial, April 1, 2012

All you have to do is watch — if you can — the You Tube video showing an emaciated and bleeding mare struggling to get up and another biting her tongue as she lay dying to know there are no excuses in the world for this level of animal cruelty.

None.

The video taken on March 10 by a horse rescue group out of Maryland at the Southwest Livestock Auction in Los Lunas shows the undeniable truth. These horses had been inhumanely mistreated, starved and injured. Yet they had flickers of appreciation for a kind touch before they were euthanized — dispatched by a gunshot after rescuers pleaded that they be put out of their misery.

That day’s quarter horse auction was advertised on fliers as a “Summit of the Horse.” Among the 700 or so horses held in pens far from the auction ring, group members say, was a “beautiful palomino (who) stood quietly with blood dripping from her eye” and an emaciated horse with both eyes destroyed and marked with a large X and a slaughter tag. Despite being abused, “even then he licked the investigator’s hand,” the group said.

Four horses were down, including the mare with the hip wound that appeared to be an injury from “bone on ground impact as she kept trying to get up and falling.” Another mare’s back legs were tangled in wire.

The group says a man identified as B. J. Winchester, a state livestock inspector, claimed the horses were rescues that auction owner Dennis Chavez was trying to nurse back to health. They say Winchester refused to interrupt the auction to have the horses euthanized, although an auction worker did finally put them down. The mare biting her tongue had died by that time.

A state Livestock Board official says it isn’t true that Winchester failed to take action, but he is on administrative leave pending an investigation into his actions. Meanwhile, the Livestock Board is wrapping up an investigation into the four dying horses to turn over to District Attorney Lemuel Martinez.

The website for the nonprofit Animals’ Angels says its investigators had received “frequent complaints about Chavez’s operation, all alleging abuse, neglect and animals suffering with no vet care and in need of euthanasia.” The group contends Chavez is a “major kill buyer” who shipped 10,000 horses a year to Mexico for slaughter — which is legal.

The video was taken nearly three weeks ago, and after being besieged with emails and other allegations about the auction the Livestock Board watched the video last Monday.

The investigations and review by prosecutors should proceed carefully, but as quickly as possible. Who knows how many more horses will suffer until the state gets serious about making sure the livestock industry humanely treats the sentient animals from which it derives a profit.

Posted with permission from the Albuquerque Publishing Company.