Animals’ Angels, an investigative agency dedicated to animal rights, has released their findings from a two-year investigation into “killer buyer” Mike McBarron of Forney, TX.
The organization alleges that McBarron, owner of M and M Livestock and M and M Farms (a trucking company), has repeatedly violated The Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act. Additionally, they document poor conditions at McBarron’s Forney collecting station.
According to the report, McBarron has garnered millions of dollars by purchasing horses at auctions and elsewhere, shipping them to Mexico for slaughter, and garnering major profits. While this practice may be morally reprehensible to those against the slaughter of horses, it is not illegal.
The Inside Rein reached out to McBarron for a response to Animals’ Angels report and he was forthcoming in his replies. McBarron does not deny sending horses to slaughter, stating, “Do I personally slaughter them myself? No, I do not. I send them to a guy in Mexico that has it done. Me personally, I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of it but here’s the bottom line: I’ve been in the horse business all my life, I buy a lot of horses. It’s kind of a necessary evil because even after all the horses that we do save every week there’s some that fall through the cracks that people don’t want.”
Since the USDA closed the remaining US slaughter plants in 2007, the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act was amended to address the issue of improper travel conditions as horses face the long haul en route to slaughter in either Canada or Mexico. It is violations of this Act that has Animals’ Angels calling for the USDA Slaughter Horse Transport Program to investigate the actions of Mr. McBarron.
According to the report, many of Mr. McBarron’s horses are purchased through brokers at auctions and sale barns, and then sent directly to slaughter, McBarron having never personally laid eyes on them.
When asked, Mr. McBarron readily admitted he purchases horses in other states and ships them directly slaughter. “That’s right,” he says, “But it’s all done legally. I get horses out of Arkansas and Louisiana but they microchip and tag the horses there and then they have a Louisiana accredited veterinarian sign the health certificate.”
The condition of the horses Mr. McBarron ships to slaughter is, according to evidence collected by Animals’ Angels, often times deplorable. The report claims some horses were unable to stand on four legs, others emaciated, and at least three documented as being dead on arrival, all direct violations of the Act. In 2014, three of McBarron’s horses tested positive for Cadmium, a banned substance in the EU and Russia, and he was notified by the Carnicos de Jerez slaughter plant. AA also alleges that foals have been seen in McBarron’s feedlots. If those horses were shipped to slaughter, that too is a direct violation of the Act that prohibits horses under six months of age to be sent to slaughter.
McBarron strongly refutes any implication that his horses are shipped in poor condition. “I’ve got compassion for them,” says McBarron, “If there’s one that looks like he doesn’t need to be put on that truck because he might not make the trip I’m going keep him off there. From time to time you’re going to have some catastrophes and something will happen that’s out of your control.”
McBarron also denies the use of an electronic prod, despite Animals’ Angels photographic evidence. “No,” he says McBarron when asked if he uses electric prods, adding, “There’s a couple pictures of me with a hot shot in my hand but they ain’t got none of me using them have they?”
Each animal being shipped for slaughter must be given an International Health Certificate after being checked by a veterinarian. Mr. McBarron employs the services of Dr. Timothy Holt of Terrell, TX for these purposes. Animals’ Angels alleges that Mr. Holt has provided this documentation without ever laying eyes on most of the horses as they are shipped directly to slaughter. This is dangerous for those who will consume the meat as they have no way of knowing whether the animal had been given banned substance during the previous 180 days. Such a practice also makes it impossible for Dr. Holt to know whether a horse has a communicable disease and is therefore unsuitable for shipping across state or country lines. The Texas Veterinary Board has written up Mr. Holt for malpractice/negligence on multiple occasions.
McBarron vehemently denies any wrongdoing on the certificates. “That’s not true,” McBarron says of the allegations that Dr. Holt provides health certificates on unseen animals. “You know why I say that? In reality he lives probably about ten miles from me and he’s at my place every day.”
Horses that McBarron purchases out of state are, according to McBarron, inspected by in-state veterinarians, and then endorsed by the USDA. If a state doesn’t provide those services, McBarron says he gets health papers on the horses, then ships them directly to his pens where he microchips and tags them and they receive veterinary inspection. The Inside Rein reached out Dr. Holt for comment and he has yet to reply.
Animals’ Angels investigated four locations operated by McBarron, including the Mike McBarron Feedlot in Forney, TX, the Eagle Pass Export Pens and Preisidio Export Pens also in Texas, and the Stanley Brother Feedlot in Bastrop, LA.
Investigators visited the Forney location and found horses knee-deep in mud with water and food troughs tipped over or empty. Photographs in the report show a horse with his eyes swollen shut, others emaciated and sickly, as well as a donkey lying dead in a pen.
McBarron stresses that his horses receive quality care and have food and water at all times. “They [Animals’ Angels] want to talk about how bad of a place my place is but my place is probably nicer than 95% of the people that are out there doing all that talking. I’ve got a first class operation. We do everything right. When the horses get to my place they get the best feed money can buy. I’d like them to see my feed and water bill every month.”
AA also visited a Stanley Brother’s collecting station notorious for welfare violations in the past. They have multiple properties operating in Mississippi and Louisiana. This is significant because McBarron uses the Stanley Brothers as brokers and shippers, a profitable venture for the brothers. According to the report, in March 2014 alone McBarron paid the Stanley Brothers $300,000 for their services. Mitchell Stanley has been fined a total of $34,925 by the USDA for violations of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act in the past.
A Stanley Brothers’ collecting station in Mississippi, operated by Jerry Earls, was investigated in 2014 when a couple reported multiple dead or dying horses at the property and reported their finding to law enforcement. According to Animals’ Angels, the remaining horses were quickly shipped to Mike McBarron to be exported for slaughter.
AA investigators visited the Stanley Brother’s property in Bastrop, LA, where they found an emaciated, severely lame horse unable to put weight on his right foreleg. The report also points to a 2010 police report documenting the observation of dead carcasses at the location, including a dead horse, a dead sheep, and two dead cows.
The AA report lays out the staggering numbers involved in Mike McBarron’s slaughter trade, both in dollars and lives. From McBarron’s Eagle Pass location alone, between 933 and 5284 horses were shipped to slaughter per month in 2014. An invoice from the Carnicos de Jerez plant states that McBarron was paid $1,988,683.02 during a 3-month period in 2014. McBarron was noncommittal on the sums he’s received in the slaughter trade, and didn’t deny the numbers printed in Animals’ Angels report.
When the EU banned the import of horsemeat from Mexico, McBarron’s business declined. He switched his business to non-EU approved plants and continues his purchase-to-slaughter pipeline, raking in staggering sums.
McBarron repeatedly stressed that his reason for sending horses to slaughter was because there was nothing else to do with them. When asked why he continued to purchase so many horses if he didn’t have the space, he replied with the following: “I do it to make money. That’s what I do; I’m in the horse business. That’s all I’ve ever done. When we get them we try to handle them as humane as we can.”
According to information obtained by Animals’ Angels through the Freedom of Information Act, McBarron has previously been sighted for multiple violations of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act and fined a total of $21,000. McBarron does not deny past violations, but stresses he’s following the law now. “I violated some laws probably 7 or 8 years ago when if first started. But I paid my fines, I paid my restitution. Cost me about 35,000 dollars. Since then I’ve tried to do everything the government says to do. I haven’t had any more fines.”
Based on the AA report, previous punishment has done nothing to slow McBarron’s lucrative slaughter business. Animals’ Angels has “called on the USDA Slaughter Horse Transport Program as well as local authorities such as the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, the Texas Animal Health Commission, and the Texas Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation into Mike McBarron’s operations.”
Article by Ashley Fairfield-Remeza