Texas calf ranch operator gets probation in cruelty case

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A Texas calf ranch operator was given a year of probation Wednesday after a judge agreed to suspend the animal-cruelty case against him and five workers.

Authorities started investigating Kirt Espenson's E6 Cattle Co. after an animal-welfare group gave authorities undercover video footage shot at the facility near Hart, about 65 miles north of Lubbock. It showed pickaxes and hammers being used to bludgeon calves to death.

The felony charge of cruelty to livestock against Espenson will be dismissed if he completes the probationary period and pays the $4,000 fine. Conviction on that count would be punishable by up to two years in a state jail.

The workers indicted with Espenson on similar charges remain at large and are suspected of having sought sanctuary in Mexico, said Castro County District Attorney James Horton.

A call to Espenson went unanswered Wednesday evening.

A month before the May indictment, Espenson told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he had fired four employees seen in the video, added more training for all workers and hired a professional trainer. He said a combination of untrained workers and a high number of sick calves from a February cold spell contributed to the incident.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Brian Reed    
Abernathy, TX  |  July, 28, 2011 at 02:41 PM

I am absolutely outraged. This man needs jail time or a much higher fine. As a Ph.D in Animal Science and a long time cattle producer, I know this is wrong. We have never hired workers to work animals and leave them unsupervised. He hired a bunch of illegal aliens and turned them loose and went and set in the house. Every animal deserves care and compassion. They provide us with food, clothing and many other necessities of life. The least we can do is treat them humanely. This judge allowing for such a slap on the wrist sentence will give more fuel to the animal rights activists as to how corrupt they believe the animal industry is.

Texas  |  July, 28, 2011 at 03:04 PM

i am outraged also. My family has been in the ranching business for a long time and we have never heard of such an act. If a animal needs to be dispatched it should be done as a last resort and in ahumane fashion. Like our lord and savior said " be kind to thy beast".

Saint Ignatius, MT  |  July, 28, 2011 at 08:01 PM

I am also a rancher and have never heard or done such a thing. However, maybe there is more to this story than we are really getting. Consider the source of the evidence; that should cast some doubt for the legitimacy of the evidence. Maybe the "undercover-animal-welfare" group paid or blackmailed the workers to get them to do such a deed. The workers haven't been found, so there is no way to question them. Did the owner have questionable practices: probably. Maybe he'll line out and get it right now.

Palestine, Texas  |  July, 29, 2011 at 08:39 AM

I doubt anyone who has spent a life feeding and taking care of livestock has not been faced with letting an animal die or killing it. Ranchers deal with prolapse, cows being paralyzed when trying to calve, they bloat and they get sick. If it is wet, a rancher is wet. If it is cold, the rancher is cold, If it is hot, we are hot. We do the best we can taking care of what we have with whatever we can afford. Unfortunately, there is not always a vet around to do the "humane" thing. I get kind of sick of the blooming bleeding hearts that want to condemn someone who may have put an animal out of its misery rather than letting it suffer for a couple more days so it can die on its own. Try starting a ranch from scratch and you will find out it is not all fun.

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