Susie Moo’s bleeding horn first alerted Santa Cruz Animal Services Supervising Field Manager Todd Stosuy that something was terribly wrong at the Watsonville, California slaughterhouse. Thanks to his intervention, the cow and 13 goats, all undernourished and many suffering from pneumonia, conjunctivitis or overgrown hooves, were removed from the feedlot where they had been kept and brought to our Orland shelter for emergency care. Seeing the group today – all of the children sleeping closely against their moms at night, Swoozie goat playing Queen of the Mountain on top of the goat playground, Susie Moo flirting with the steers in the cattle herd – it’s difficult to imagine what would have become of them had they not been rescued.
Officer Stosuy filed charges against the slaughterhouse owner on four counts – three pertaining to animal neglect and one to an "inhumane" slaughter that he had witnessed. Two of the counts specifically addressed a pair of severely ill and emaciated goats we had rescued, one of whom was a downer and, despite our efforts to bring her back to health, passed away shortly after her rescue.
Though legal proceedings were delayed for a year and a half, the trial against the owner of the slaughterhouse finally occurred this month, and I was called to testify on behalf of the animals we rescued. Faced with the prosecution’s expert witnesses and seeing that we were not backing down, the defendant pled guilty to the two counts concerning our goats. His only punishment, however, was to pay restitution, and he was found not guilty of "inhumane" slaughter.
Still, we are thankful that Officer Stosuy and the prosecutor pursued justice and gave our rescued animals a voice. It is unusual for a case like this to be brought to trial – and to the public’s attention – at all. The court’s leniency demonstrates how much further legal protection for farm animals has to go, but seeing how far the survivors have come will teach so many about the abuse farm animals suffer and the happiness they are capable of knowing when treated with kindness.
Pictured above: Mother and son survivors Annie and Hal, living happily at Farm Sanctuary.