The owner of an illegal slaughter facility in Los Angeles County is behind bars after video footage showed him slitting the throats of two conscious animals before letting them bleed to death.
The clip, released Friday by Mercy for Animals, shows 25-year-old Roberto Celedon picking up a goat by its two right legs, pinning it on its back and cutting its throat with a knife before leaving the twitching animal to die slowly. A sheep then suffers the same fate on camera.
Celedon was arrested for violation of California’s animal cruelty laws. He is also being charged with violating the State’s Food and Agriculture Code, since his operation was unlicensed and failed to meet sanitation standards.
“Not only is this an important animal welfare issue, it’s also a food safety issue,” says Matthew Rice, Director of Operations at Mercy for Animals.
Equally as disturbing as the footage of these animal deaths is the fact that meat from the business was sold for human consumption.
But since the facility kept no distribution records, officials are finding it difficult to determine where exactly the meat ended up.
“We do know that [Celedon] was at least selling it to individuals and marketing it as halal,” Rice told Food Safety News. Halal is an Islamic term for food that is sacred and therefore permissible to eat.
“Unfortunately, not only was [Celedon] breaking California law, he was also breaking Halal law by any meat standards as well,” noted Rice in an interview.
Both Halal and Kosher ritual slaughter methods are regulated by government standards and facilities are monitored for compliance with these laws. This business, however, did not have a license and was not operating under government regulation.
This L.A.-area operation is not unique, says Rice. “The bigger issue is that based on numerous complaints that we’ve received we know that these types of illegal slaughter operations run rampant in California as well as across the country,” he says.
“We hope that this arrest will serve as a warning that animal abuse even by meat producers will not be tolerated.”
MFA is conducting investigations into several other facilities that may also be operating illegally, says Rice.
At a time when the movement to support local producers is gaining momentum, this crackdown highlights concerns that some local meat may not necessarily be “better.”
Rice – a supporter of eating locally – says consumers and retailers should always make sure that the meat they buy comes from a licensed operation, and that “at the very least” animals are unconscious when they are killed.
Note: The video mentioned in this article (link provided in second paragraph) contains graphic footage including violence and blood.