Undercover investigator films alleged livestock abuse

Freedom New Mexico: Karl Terry The Portales Livestock Auction, located just west of Portales, was the subject of a May undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS alleges animal abuse involving downer cattle took place at the facility.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

New allegations of livestock abuse surfaced Wednesday, this time targeting the Portales Livestock Auction.

The Humane Society of the United States released video footage of sick or injured dairy cows it contends were mistreated at the auction where they are sold for slaughter.

Such cows pose increased risk for mad cow disease, E. coli and other infections, partly because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems often are weak, according to the animal advocacy group.

An undercover investigator worked at the Portales facility in May and documented mistreatment of cows and calves, according to a HSUS press release.

The Portales facility is owned by Randy Bouldin and handles about 1,000 head of cattle a week.

“My first reaction is I’m very concerned with what I saw in the video,” Bouldin said. “There (were) some instances that were videotaped where I don’t think that the policies of Portales Livestock Auction were being followed.”

Bouldin said he was certain there was “no way” a downer cow could have gotten into the food supply.

According to the video shot by an undercover investigator for the Humane Society, some cows were prodded or dragged by a chain pulled by a tractor. The investigator, who worked at the auction facility in May, claims to have observed three downed cows sold after being brought into the auction area by force.

“At every turn, we have found appalling abuses of spent dairy cows,” said Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society’s president and chief executive. “No longer can anyone in government, or in the livestock industry, claim that this is an isolated abuse.”

Pacelle’s group released a video in January that was made inside a California slaughterhouse, also shot during an undercover investigation. This footage led to the nation’s largest beef recall. In May, the society released video of downed cows being abandoned or mistreated at four auction facilities around the country, including the Clovis Livestock Auction and the Livestock Exchange in Hereford, Texas, which Bouldin also owns.

Bouldin said he sees the findings of the investigation as an opportunity to train, retrain and educate his employees and to do a better job.

“I don’t want to represent that I think (the investigation was) unfair because I got caught,” he said.

“(But) I would have rather (undercover investigators) stepped in right at that moment so we could take care of it. Certainly their interest was more in getting a story again, other than the humane treatment of those cows.”

The release also alleges New Mexico Brand Inspectors were present and witnessed several of the incidents.

Myles Culbertson, director of the New Mexico Livestock Board in Albuquerque, said inspectors are usually outside the entrances of these markets, watching cattle as they enter a facility, not observing the auction ring. He said he doubted that a downer cow could be sold at auction, because it would have to walk in and out of the ring.

“A buyer at a sale ring is not going to buy a cow that’s not ambulatory,” he said.

Culbertson said the board plans to investigate the issues raised by the Humane Society video.

Bouldin, who termed the incidents as isolated, said the investigator was employed at the auction over a four- to five-week period. “They got two or three instances … it’s not like it happened every day, every hour.”

HSUS has posted a video on its Web site it said was filmed in Portales by the investigator. Click here to view the video.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.