Eat Horse Meat, Spend a Year in a Florida Jail (Updated)
If that somebody tries the same thing next year, he will likely spend at least a year in jail and pay a $3,500 fine. The Florida House of Representatives is poised to pass a bill making it a felony to traffic in illegal horse meat. They're calling it the Ivonne Rodriguez Horse Protection Act.
"My horse had been tied to a palm tree and slaughtered," Rodriguez wrote in 2009. "This is something that has to be stopped." (So far there have been no arrests.)
I don't like the bill much. Sure, Florida regulators have passed the buck on regulating horse butchery. In the '90s, they assigned regulation to the feds, who dropped the ball. And it is a tragedy that Rodriguez's beauty, Geronimo, was cut up and buried under a bunch of palm fronds. There were at least 19 others thus whacked last year in South Florida.
But mandatory minimum sentences are no good. Judges ought to be able to decide how to penalize bad guys. And the new bill -- which is almost certain to pass the House but could hang up in the Senate -- adds "transporting, distributing, purchasing, or possessing" as crimes. Businesses would lose their licenses for selling the stuff.
"This isn't like drugs; you don't get addicted to horse meat," says Florida Rep. Luis Garcia, a Democrat who represents much of Central Miami-Dade and is sponsoring the bill in the House. "This is one crime where if we attack the demand, we just might lessen the crime."
He adds the bill has been amended to regulate treatment of polo ponies too. It's now ready to be voted on by the full House and has been approved by one Senate committee. Good politics, but who in hell eats polo ponies?
I mean, really, in South Florida, perhaps the nation's most cosmopolitan area, people eat this stuff. It should certainly be better regulated. But this law won't do the trick. Better enforcement will -- and money so that cops and committed folks, such as the SPCA's Laurie Waggoner, can investigate nasty killings when they happen.
Still, you have to like the way Garcia talks about he problem. "In the old West, they used to hang people for this," he says. "I don't want to sound like Clint Eastwood, but I say, 'Hang 'em high.' "