While the abuses on factory farms and in slaughterhouses are gradually coming to the public’s attention, the treatment of animals at livestock auctions remains relatively concealed. With the use of hidden cameras, COK’s livestock auction undercover investigation is a glimpse into what is an often-overlooked stage in a farmed animal’s life. Yet, it speaks volumes of their misery as well as our own humanity.
From October through December of 2001, COK conducted an investigation throughout the state of Maryland, documenting the conditions for animals at three livestock auctions: Westminster Livestock Auction, Four State’s Livestock Sales, and Frederick Livestock Auction, all of which are owned by B&J Auctions.*
The main finding of COK’s investigation is deeply troubling: Violence and intimidation toward animals are the norm at livestock auctions.
Farmed animals are brought to livestock auctions to be sold to the highest bidder, from small farmers to factory farms to slaughter companies. To the sellers and buyers, the only worth of these animals lies in the economic value of their flesh, milk, wool, and other marketable qualities.
At auctions, animals have no control over their fate. Confused and terrified, they are kicked and prodded, separated from their companions, forced into the auction ring, bid on, and then trucked off, now the property of a new owner.
Unable to understand the new and foreign environment, animals at auctions routinely become immobilized in the chutes. For those who can’t free themselves, workers shock them with electric prods and beat them.
Animals who are either unable or unwilling to walk are dragged by their legs, ears, and tails by workers at livestock auctions. Some are even carried upside down.
Calves at livestock auctions are often under one week old. They have been torn from their mothers, most of whom are still on dairy farms, hooked up to milking machines that steal the very milk intended for these calves. Barely able to walk—and some still with their umbilical cords hanging from their bodies—these calves are welcomed into the world by rough handlers who prod them—as well as “spent” dairy cows, pigs, goats, bulls, sheep, and other farmed animals—through the auction. The next 16 weeks of these calves’ lives will be spent in a crate too tight for them to turn around. Then, they will be hung upside down and have their throats slit.
* During the course of the investigation, Frederick Livestock Auction was shut down permanently, due to the state’s interest in beautifying the exit ramp on which it sat. The business previously held at the Frederick Livestock Auction is now conducted at Four State’s Livestock Sales.