The owner of a Florida farm in the cradle of horse show country was found guilty yesterday on charges stemming from evidence obtained in a months long investigation conducted by an animal welfare organization seeking to shutter illegal slaughterhouses.
A jury of two men and four women returned a guilty verdict on two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and two misdemeanor counts of killing animals, at the Palm Beach County Courthouse after a two-day trail of Jorge Garcia of Rancho Garcia.
Following two days of testimony by the Florida-based organization The Animal Recovery Mission, including evidence centering on the allegedly torturous and unnecessarily protracted deaths of two goats, the jury handed up guilty verdicts to Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer, according to Richard “Kudo” Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission.
The decision bolstered Couto’s efforts to end abusive conditions at illegal slaughterhouses in the Sunshine State, says Couto, who notes that a stockpile of frozen horsemeat was also recovered at the scene where the goats had been slaughtered.
Though the treatment of goats and other livestock might not, at first blush, be the type of activity most people would expect to warrant a jury trial, Couto explains that the manner in which the animals died went so far “over the line” that a jury of meat eaters reached a conclusion relatively quickly.
“If Jorge Garcia took out a 45 caliber weapon and shot the animals, I would have left” the matter alone, he says. “The Animal Recovery Mission isn’t out to close every slaughterhouse; we are out to stop extreme crimes against animals. In the case of these goats, the deaths took so long, one of them took a full six minutes to die, and they were skinned alive. Legally, the death of an animal should take a millisecond. That animal should be rendered unconscious first, with either a captive bolt, or a large-caliber bullet.”
The trail was the result of a six-month investigation conducted by undercover investigators working for the/The Animal Recovery Mission to obtain video and other footage of activities taking place at three properties in Palm Beach. Besides Rancho Garcia, investigators also staked out G.A. Paso Fino Farm and Medina Farm. After gathering enough evidence to present to law enforcement authorities, the farms were raided last October by local, state and federal law enforcement. (Please see original story here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/10/16/cuoto-illegal-butchers-killed-show-horses-too/).
At the time, Couto described the effort as the largest tactical bust his organization had been involved with, and said that all manner of animals, including horses, were being slaughtered on the farms.
At the time of those raids, Couto stated publicly to myriad news outlets and to Off Track Thoroughbreds.com that he and other investigators had become convinced that horses were being slaughtered on these farms as well.
As he awaits a sentencing hearing for Garcia, Couto says he is encouraged that the verdicts in Palm Beach this week will have a lasting impact on future animal slaughter/cruelty cases.
“We have a lot of cases going to trial right now,” says Couto. “I think this case is going to make the prosecutors think twice about pleading out theses cases.”