Have you ever heard of a backyard butcher? It’s pretty much what it sounds like — a person who slaughters animals for their personal consumption. This is legal in California, but a backyard butcher selling meat to the public is not.
Last week Roberto Celedon was arrested and charged with 13 counts –-3 felonies and 10 misdemeanors– of charges ranging from felony animal cruelty to operating a meat slaughterhouse without a license. “The charges could be changed as the case is still under investigation” Jane Robison, Press Secretary, Los Angeles District Attorney’s office told me in a phone conversation.
Current charges are:
- Adulterating any meat or meat food product – felony
- Cruelty to animal (brown and white bull) – felony
- Cruelty to animal (baby black goat) – felony
- Operating a meat processing establishment or custom livestock slaughterhouse without a license – misdemeanor
- Operating an establishment not licensed by the department – misdemeanor
- Operating an establishment that is not clean – misdemeanor
- Operating an establishment in a manner or under conditions that are not sanitary – misdemeanor
- Operating an establishment that does not meet sanitary building or equipment standards – misdemeanor
- Slaughtering livestock capable as use for human food – misdemeanor
- Illegal slaughter (goat, without rendering the animal insensible to pain) – misdemeanor
- Illegal slaughter (sheep, without rendering the animal insensible to pain) – misdemeanor
- Failure to provide sufficient good and wholesome food and potable water – misdemeanor
On April 3, 2012, 58 animals were removed from Celedon’s Santa Clarita, California property by Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (ACC.) A horse (with a severe leg wound that is open to the bone), five cattle, 14 goats and nine sheep were turned over to The Gentle Barn for rehabilitation at the sanctuary. The remaining smaller animals — pigeons, chickens and nine dogs — were sent to the Castaic Animal shelter for a period of quarantine.
Gentle Barn President Jay Weiner told me in a phone interview that at least one of the cows taken in is confirmed to be pregnant. The remaining animals are suffering from malnutrition, parasites, infected open sores, runny noses, hacking coughs and major fevers. Some of the goats are actually blind from untreated eye infections.
Gentle Barn’s Mission
The website states:
“The Gentle Barn Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1999 as a safe haven and place of recovery for abused farm animals and children. Its unique philosophy rehabilitates animals and connects their stories of survival and healing to the personal experiences of inner city, at-risk and special needs children and adults who have suffered physical, mental or emotional trauma.”
“Unlike most therapy animals who are selected for their docile temperaments and raised for service from a young age, each of The Gentle Barn’s 138 farm animals has a history of neglect, abandonment and other abuses that are personally relevant to at-risk children. By interacting with the animals and taking a hands-on role in their welfare, those who participate in programs at The Gentle Barn learn empathy, kindness, strength, trust, forgiveness and leadership. The variety of programs offered promotes lifelong healing for both the people and the animals.”
The Gentle Barn founder, Ellie R. Laks and her partner, Jay Weiner, have been working with ACC for about four years in an effort to get this particular backyard butcher shut down. And this is not the first time they have taken in animals from Celedon’s backyard butcher operation. In October 2008, they purchased four turkeys, nine cows and nine goats from him in response to being told the animal control department was shutting him down. That didn’t happen.
Weiner told me it is his understanding that some animals were killed for rituals by hanging the creatures while conscious. It stands to reason that a butcher would care for and encourage the animals to eat and fatten up prior to slaughtering them, but Celedon kept the animals in filthy, deplorable conditions and didn’t provide them adequate food or water. “The conditions seen at the property was like a third-world country,” said Laks.
Laks and Weiner believe in and advocate for a plant-based diet. “We recognize that people have many choices as to what they eat and where they purchase their food,” says Laks. “But no matter what you choose, everyone should be selective about the source of their meat and not buy from backyard butchers.”
What’s In Store for the Rescued Animals
Laks and Weiner incorporate a holistic approach to animal rescue. This combined with traditional veterinary medical care creates a very special sanctuary for the creatures who get to live out their natural lives with love, kindness and compassion from humans – something they had not experienced before. Acupuncture, veterinary chiropractic methods and a supplement that boosts the immune system make all the difference.
Rejuv-a-Wafer ™ by Sun Chlorella is given to animals at The Gentle Barn as part of a complete health regimen. It is flavored with animal preferences in mind and Weiner reports the gang considers it a treat, not medicine.
Once the rescued animals from Celedon’s backyard butcher operation improve medically and emotionally, they will become ambassadors for the many children that visit The Gentle Barn as part of the at-risk-program for inner city kids. Folks at The Gentle Barn also provide humane education experiences for school-aged children and special needs kids.
Photo of rescued horse used with permission of The Gentle Barn