Cops Take a Belated Stab at Northwest Miami-Dade's "Pork Pirates"

Categories: Culture, News
C. Stiles
For a March cover story entitled "Pork Pirates", New Times journeyed deep into the weird farmlands of Northwest Miami-Dade County to document the area's rampant illegal slaughter industry. We watched an unlicensed butcher bust a cap in a hog's head, met a farmer named Manuel Coto who claimed he had devised a way around slaughter regulations -- cops maintained he was full of shit -- and interviewed a dude accused of eating his own pony.

Nine months later, horse slaughter in the same 'hood has apparently spurred authorities to attempt a crackdown on the illegal slaughter. Over the weekend, code enforcers and food and safety investigators hit the area known as the C-9 Basin, located north of Okeechobee Road and west of the Florida Turnpike. From the Miami Herald:
The agencies issued a long list of violations. They found garbage dumped around the property, an illegal restaurant, butcher tables, a fly infestation in the slaughter area and hog pen, and a freezer packed with meat -- no horse, but whole and sectioned hogs ready for sale.
The crack squad even raided our old friend Manuel Coto, the foul-mouthed farmer who has long been beleaguered by fines and misdemeanor criminal charges from code enforcers and cops. He's become the unwilling face of animal slaughter and abuse in Northwest Miami-Dade: after being featured in our March story, in September he was accused of neglecting a former racing stallion -- and the Associated Press implied that he may secretly peddle horse flesh. This weekend, cops confiscated "two sickly horses" found on his farm.

But a community source who is something of an expert on the illegal slaughter tells Riptide it's doubtful the most recent raids will deter unlicensed butchers.

"Even if you hit them with fines, they'll find some way to undermine the law," he says. "Financially, they're making a killing on illegal slaughter, and they don't report any of those earnings to the IRS. It's all pocketed."

His take on horse slaughter isn't exactly heartening. He says that after several undercover horse-meat buys by Miami-Dade cops clandestine butchers are still selling but are only handling smaller quantities in order to avoid serious jail time if busted. "They're selling horse in steak form now," our source says. "After they butcher it, they quickly divide it among other farmers so that nobody's stuck with a large amount. If there is a raid, you're not going to find a horse torso in the fridge these days."

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