Sanstedt came to public attention in 1991, before she worked for Farm Sanctuary, after seeing a pamphlet and television show two years earlier about the treatment of "downers" at livestock markets − animals for sale who were too sick or injured to stand, and who might be left for days with no water, food or treatment. The material prompted her to visit a livestock market belonging to United Stockyards Corporation in South St. Paul, Minnesota. She worked at night as a cocktail waitress and by day visited the stockyard several times between November 1989 and May 1991, using a video camera she bought on credit for $75 a month. She requested a meeting with management in 1989 and again in June 1990 through the local humane society, and was told the problem was being dealt with.
In May 1991, she released 44 hours of footage to television stations that showed downed animals lying in pens for days without food or water, cows being dragged by heavy chains attached to a hindleg, pigs kept without food or water in temperatures of -22 °F (-30 °C), and one cow, still alive, frozen to the ground. The footage was reduced to 18 minutes by Farm Sanctuary, and published as "The Down Side of Livestock Marketing."
The story, and a planned protest at the stockyard organized by Farm Sanctuary, received broad coverage in the media, including on NBC's Nightly News. United Stockyards responded, just before an NBC investigation aired on May 19, by announcing a "no downer" policy at South St. Paul and the six other livestock markets the company owned; farmers would no longer be paid for downed animals, but instead the animals would be euthanized and the farmer charged a rendering fee. The company said the footage had not influenced their decision, but had only determined the timing of their announcement. Farm Sanctuary later hired Sanstedt as an investigator and paid off her camera loan. In 1991, she received the Animal Humanitarian of the Year award from the Animal Protection Institute.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Bauer 2008, pp. 41-42.
- Finsen and Finsen 1994, p. 2.
- For the announcement coming just before the NBC air date, see Reed, 19 August 1991.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Finsen and Finsen 1994, pp. 1-3.
- ↑ Reed, 19 August 1991.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Rosenberg, 23 October 1991.
- Associated Press. "Champion of downed livestock", 13 May 1991.
- Baur, Gene. Farm Sanctuary. Simon and Schuster, 2008.
- Finsen, Lawrence and Finsen, Susan. The Animal Rights Movement in America. Twayne Publishers, 1994.
- Reed, Susan. "Where's the Beef? Don't Ask", People magazine, 19 August 1991, Vol. 36, No. 6.
- Rosenberg, Howard. "A Prize for a Video Muckraker Television: Becky Sandstedt's videocam helps stop cruelty inside the South St. Paul, Minn., stockyard", Los Angeles Times, 23 October 1991.
- Wolfson, David J. "Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systemic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food or Food Production", Animal Law, 2:123, 1995.