Left: Christie. Right: Photo of dead cow on his property in the Arcata Bottoms on the day he was arrested.




John R. Cogorno is an Orange County-based attorney who represents Arcata rancher Ray Christie, who was arrested last year on charges of animal cruelty and violations of state environmental law after police raids on four of his properties turned up hundreds of cattle carcasses, malnourished animals and numerous other violations of law.

Next week, Judge Timothy Canning is scheduled to issue a ruling on a motion to dismiss the case brought by Christie’s legal team.

In the meanwhile, Cogorno sends the following essay to the Outpost:

A Rush To Judgement

I have read a number of articles published in the local newspapers and on line as well as “comments” from people who have prejudged Ray Christie without any understanding of the many challenges of the cattle business, the legal issues involved in his case, the vague, ambiguous and over broad charges, and the Constitutional issues involved. I find it very disheartening to see what some people in California have retreated to since the 60’s when people critically questioned government, government motives, and government imposing more control and promoting special interest agendas of removing the freedoms, liberties, privacy, and property rights of the individual in society, promulgated by very powerful and influential special interest groups in and around government.

I am going to try herein to explain some, but far from all, of the problems people may not be aware of and don’t understand about the beef and dairy cattle business. What has been written may have led some people to believe from what they have read in the various media outlets that Ray Christie doesn’t care about the cattle that he buys. Let me start out with the one statement of fact and that is, that Ray Christie is not in the business of investing his money in cattle to let them die. The death of any cow that he purchases is a loss of his time, money, energy, and resources. Think about it, there is no profit in that business plan.

Animals, like cattle, do die and from many causes. Ray Christie purchases thousands of cattle through the auctions and from other ranchers and dairymen in already very poor and neglected physical condition, which are referred to at the auction as a “leaner,” “railer,” or “junk cattle” that other ranchers don’t want to deal with and want to get rid of. The mortality rate for these cattle will naturally be very high for the purchaser of these animals, such as Ray Christie. In addition, there are approximately forty-seven (47) poisonous plants in California, including undiscovered black mold found in hay, which contain mycotoxins (mold poisons) that can adversely affect health and productivity of cattle. If ingested by livestock such as cattle, it can potentially cause mycotic (fungal) abortion, respiratory effects, decreased feed consumption and rate of gain and digestive problems, which can lead to their unexpected death. There are numerous diseases and other ailments that livestock can develop, such as cancer, viral infections, parasitic infections that can result from environmental contamination, and adulteration in food from black mold. When cattle are sick from disease or infection or consume poisonous plants or black mold they will naturally not eat or drink “causing” them to become emaciated, dehydrated, with sunken eyes and appear to be malnourished. Emaciation and dehydration are a “symptom,” and not the “cause” of the animal’s ailment. Unfortunately, no necropsy was performed on any dead cow found on Mr. Christie’s property by any government agency and therefore the “cause” of death or “when” the animal died is unknown. Further, there were two (2) government veterinarians on site and not one live cow, which allegedly appeared to be in “poor” condition on Mr. Christie’s property, was removed for examination in order to determine the “cause” of any emaciation, sunken eyes, and dehydration. In addition, not one cow was either “treated” for any ailment by any governmental agency on Mr. Christie’s property or removed from his property while he was detained and in custody during the execution of the search warrant by those who condemned Mr. Christie for the “appearance” of some of the cattle that had just arrived by truck and were unloaded. Unfortunately, therefore, the “cause” or “conformation” of what is “assumed” to be the “cause” of their appearance and poor condition is left to speculation not evidence and the photographs make for sensational news and a “rush to judgment” on the foundation of soundbites and bits and pieces of second hand reported information.

The consequences of the felony charges being brought against Ray Christie are having a very large rippling effect on the beef and dairy cattle industry, particularly the “organic” dairy cattle industry, in the entire County of Humboldt. Before placing judgment on Ray Christie, take a look at what his business entails as a livestock rancher. Ray Christie purchases the majority of his livestock at auction that other ranchers won’t buy, because of their “undesirable” condition. The auction is often the “last call” for these livestock. These animals have been acquired by various means, such as donations, picked up as strays, seized from law enforcement investigations and/or “culled” from herds (eliminating the “undesirables”) by commercial ranchers because they have been deemed no longer productive or economically viable and then placed in the auction. The most common reasons for culling livestock in herds are diseases, such as mastitis, reproductive diseases, diseases of the skin and hooves and clinical lameness. Many other factors for dairy cows, such as parity, lactation stage, reproductive performance, health, calving season, milk yield and cow welfare, also influence the decision to cull a cow. These cows may also be severely worn-out cows, often called a “leaner,” with their bodies visibly destroyed by years of dairy production. Many of them, it turns out, are not more than 5 or 6 years old, though their bodies look ancient. Their skin hangs loosely on their hip bones and against their ribs. They are significantly underweight, emaciated and barely able to hold themselves up. This is where Mr. Christie comes into the picture, taking a huge financial risk in purchasing these “undesirables”. Once purchased, the livestock are then transported to Ray Christie’s ranch. During transport, animals are exposed to environmental stresses including heat, cold, humidity, noise, motion and social regrouping. Transportation by its nature is an unfamiliar and threatening event in the life of an animal. Transportation involves a series of handling and confinement situations which are unavoidably stressful and can lead to distress, injury or even death. Keep in mind that these “undesirables” are already in poor condition at the auction and unfortunately some die while being transported, which is a financial risk that Ray Christie is willing to take. However, the majority of these livestock can be “rehabilitated”, by Ray Christie providing them with food, fluids, some basic veterinary care, patience and time (often several months). There are many issues and conditions that come into play, during the time that these animals are rehabilitated and during that time some of the animals do not make it. It is Ray Christie’s goal to turn these livestock around so that they will produce milk again or provide beef down the road. For the last forty (40) years Ray Christie has been taking a financial risk by buying these sick and lame livestock, from private parties and auctions, and taking the time and the patience of “rehabilitating” them to healthy beef and dairy cattle. At this time, Ray can no longer take the risk of new charges being brought against him if any livestock should die from an unknown pre-condition while in his possession.

There is no rendering plant nor has there been a rendering plant for large dead animals in Humboldt County for years. Rendering plants can recycle a dead animal for pet food and for other uses if the carcass is fresh enough after death. Even if there was a rendering plant for large dead animals somewhere in Humboldt County the dead animal would have to be found and retrieved from the field where the animal is located and delivered to the rendering plant within forty-eight (48) hours of death with weather permitting access to their location, which is subject of course to the natural and extremely muddy conditions in the wet season. Without a rendering plant in the County available to receive a dead cow, assuming that you can retrieve a large animal such as a cow in the wet conditions, now what do you do with it? You cannot sell it or consume it. That leaves historically natural and traditional composting of the remains like we used to do with our pets.

The historical use of the open land along the coast in Humboldt County, California, has been used as pasture land for farming and ranching, which traditionally provided jobs in the past and contributed to what use to be a robust economy in the area.

As to all of the misdemeanor charges please understand that Ray Christie is not charged with actual pollution of “Waters of the State” from or while on “public property,” but instead, charged with a violation of a law that requires action on his part to affirmatively allow the “possibility” of pollution from “private property” that he either owns or leases for grazing cattle that have died on his “private property,” no matter how long they had been dead, or even whether or not they were his cattle. Furthermore, not one cow carcass was removed as evidence from these open pastures for examination in order to determine what the “cause” of death was.

The environment which livestock normally live in is never the same. It changes with the weather and the seasons. The properties that are normally dry during the summer months can be flooded in the winter months from the very heavy winter rains. “Artificially” created “wetlands” creating sloughs and other bodies of surface water on otherwise traditional private property pasture land used for grazing, can be created by closed floodgates at the edge of the various private properties separating the private property from the main traditional bodies of water. It was discovered by Ray Christie after he was arrested and released on bail that all of the floodgates around his properties had been closed by someone other than Ray Christie, thereby creating deep surface water and heavy mud as a result of the complete separation of the surface water build up between his private property and the main bodies of water. Unfortunately, the reason for the retention of water on the private property side was not discovered by the eleven federal, state, and county agencies that descended upon his property with a search warrant. It is unknown if the floodgates were even operable at the time of his arrest.

There are also Federal and State Constitutional issues pertaining to the allegations of alleged violation of law in the Ray Christie case. The Constitutions are designed to protect all of us and are individual rights from government over reaching and abuse. An “inalienable right” of the people is an absolute right of the people guaranteed by the “contract” between the people of the State of California and the creation of a Constitutional government. California State Government is a Constitutional government and its very existence is by permission of the people through the creation of the Constitution. This “contract” is known as the California State Constitution. A government in a free society is formed to serve its people, not vice versa. By the “constraints” placed on the government by the State Constitution people are declared to be free by their very nature and are therefore independent of government constraints, among which specifically includes liberty and acquiring, possessing, and protecting their property. All laws must be in conformity with the rights, privileges, and protections stated within the Constitution.

Article I, Section 1, the very first provision of the California State Constitution clearly states a “Declaration Of Rights” for all people in the State of California. It States: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

What I see progressively evolving here in this State are powerful interest groups involved in promoting environmental extremism using malum prohibitum vague, overboard laws arbitrarily enforced by the various governmental agencies to oppress Constitutional rights with the justification of those laws to impose and enforce their political agendas by criminal prosecution and instilling fear rather than working with the people as a partner to resolve problems. As a result, this may be the “last call” for the beef and dairy cattle industry here in Humboldt County.

The Ray Christie matter reminds me of a poem I once read back in college many years ago, written by the German Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemoller, “First they came …,” about the supremacy of the Nazi State over religion and the purging of the State’s chosen targets, group after group after group of people. Niemoller originally bought into the State’s propaganda supporting the need for rise of the Nazi State and became a supporter of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in targeting groups of people. The need for more laws and power to the State were justified by the “necessity” for more health, safety and welfare protection from targeted undesirable “groups”. However, later he became disillusioned with the State and opposed Hitler’s Nazi State which led to his arrest. The same theme applies in today’s society with more Federal, State, County, and City government, and their numerous appointed un-elected agencies, and their numerous laws, policies, procedures, rules, regulations, restrictions, codes, ordinances that no one can understand and be in compliance with. If found in violation, the penalties range from loss of freedom by incarceration along with a combination of excessive fines, penalties, assessments, taxes, fees, and restitution. It is all about control of the individual and the taking of property by the all powerful State without just compensation for its own justified reasons.

Martin Niemoller’s poem is applicable today with modifications as follows: First, the State came for the cattlemen, and no one spoke out because they were not cattlemen but vegetarians, and those who were cattlemen, feared reprisal to speak out against the State; Then the State came for the farmers and dairymen, and no one spoke out because they were not farmers or dairymen but vegan, and those who were farmers and dairymen, feared reprisal to speak out against the State; Then the State came for their lawyers who held up the Constitution, and no one spoke out because they were not lawyers and did not understand their Constitutional rights, and therefore feared reprisal to speak out against the State; Then the State came for the judges who applied and enforced the Constitutional rights of people, and no one spoke out because they were not judges but only considered themselves uninformed lay people, and they too feared reprisal to speak out against the State; Then the State came for the uninformed who were conditioned to prejudge others before trial, but by then there was no one left to speak.

In order to apply and enforce the principles set forth in the Federal and State Constitutions requires and independent judiciary, a free and independent people, objectivity, and intellectual honesty opposing political agendas and bias. Can Ray Christie receive a fair and impartial jury in Humboldt County?

For those who feel the need to comment, please feel free to contact me at cogorno@msn.com.

John R. Cogorno, Attorney at Law