Roberto Celedon, known as the “Backyard Butcher” for operating an illegal slaughterhouse in Canyon Country, reported to San Fernando Superior Court today to begin his sentence in a precedent-setting case, and a first for L.A. County.
Graphic video footage captured by an anonymous undercover investigator and obtained by Mercy for Animals (MFA), a Los Angeles-based, national animal protection organization, showed Celedon, assisted by an unnamed woman, violently pinning down a pregnant goat and then a sheep, sawing their throats open, causing them to slowly bleed to death.
“The blatant cruelty towards the goat and sheep at this facility is nothing short of horrifying and must be punished to the full extent of the law,” said Armaiti May, DVM and farmed animal welfare expert.
Arriving at the court accompanied by his wife (believed to be the same woman in the video), Celedon was taken aback when members of the press started snapping pictures. Showing no signs of remorse, he warned defiantly: “She’s pregnant, and if anything happens to her, I’m gonna sue you guys.”
Initially charged with 13 counts of animal cruelty, including 3 felonies, Celedon, 26, pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor through a plea agreement, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 5 years’ probation, nearly $4,000 in fines, 48 animal cruelty classes, and is prohibited from possessing or owning animals, operating a meat-producing facility, attending auctions where animals are sold and selling meat products.
“Farmed animals have the least amount of legal protection and we praise law enforcement for taking this seriously,” stated Matt Rice, MFA Director of Investigations.
After a raid of the facility, which was described as dirty and unsanitary, L.A. County Animal Control officers seized dozens of sick, emaciated and injured animals, including a horse, cattle, goats and sheep. The animals were placed in the care of The Gentle Barn, a local sanctuary for farmed animals, where their health improved.
“The public is tired of slaps on the wrist for heinous animal abuse,” Rice said, noting that in 1993 only seven states had felony anti-cruelty laws, whereas today, 47 states and the District of Columbia have animal felony laws on the books (although he points out that 33 states have "common farming exemptions" that exclude farmed animals from most anti-cruelty laws).
On the upside, Rice believes that due to state ballot initiatives in recent years, banning cruel farming practices, coupled with the recently introduced federal bill to add protections for America’s egg-laying hens, there is some light on the horizon.
“The Celedon case will serve as a warning to others that this type of abuse won’t be tolerated,” says Rice, whose organization is noted for spearheading two large-scale animal cruelty investigations, one at New York’s Willet Dairy, the state’s largest dairy factory farm, which resulted in New York State banning the tail docking of cattle, and the other at California’s Norco Egg Farm, which led to the passage of Prop 2 that will do away with inhumane confinement of egg-laying hens, veal calves and pregnant pigs in California.
For more information on this case, including photos and video footage, visit mercyforanimals.org