Largest illegal US slaughterhouse raided, closed

Richard "Kuto" Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, triggered the shutdown of the largest illegal slaughterhouse in the U.S. in March. Police and an Organized Crime Unit shut down Coco Farm in Florida.

Richard “Kuto” Couto, founder of the Animal Recovery Mission, triggered the shutdown of the largest illegal slaughterhouse in the U.S. in March. Police and an Organized Crime Unit shut down Coco Farm in Florida.

The nation’s largest known illegal slaughterhouse—a place where horse carcasses were fed to crocodiles as the final insult—was shut down in March in a large-scale sting operation led by Richard “Kudo” Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM).

Following a five month investigation in which Couto documented severe conditions on the property where more than 9,000 animals could be found living in filth, hunger, and disease, the kingpin of illegal slaughterhouses known as Coco Farm was raided by 80 law enforcement officials, including officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department, State Attorneys office, and members of the Organized Crime Unit, Couto says.

“This is the largest illegal slaughterhouse ever shut down in U.S. history,” Couto says. “We took out over 9,500 animals during the raid, including goats, pigs, chickens, cattle, and sheep. Horses had been there as well, in a back field with the cattle, but by the time we got out to the back of the property where they were kept, they’d been butchered.”

Coco Farm teamed with sick, dying or dead animals.

Coco Farm teamed with sick, dying or dead animals.

Couto and his team at the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) has conducted undercover investigations of illegal slaughterhouses resulting in criminal prosecution since 2008, when the former investigator for the SPCA-turned animal activist was personally touched by the struggle of an ex-racehorse Thoroughbred who was inches away from the butcher’s blade.

Thoroughbred Freedom’s Flight, a chestnut gelding who narrowly escaped death from a backwoods butcher in Florida, became Couto’s personal horse shortly after the animal was rescued. (Please read that story here). And since 2008, Couto and a team of dedicated animal rights personnel has exposed and shut down nearly more than 100 illegal slaughterhouses.

“We’ve shut down almost 140 and we’re guesstimating there’s another 500 in existence here in Florida,” Couto says. “And they all kill horses.”

Coco Farm was the kingpin of illegal slaughterhouses in Florida, according to Richard Couto.

Coco Farm was the kingpin of illegal slaughterhouses in Florida, according to Richard Couto.

But Coco Farm was the biggest and most significant, thus far, he says.

Coco Farms, he notes, is the first illegal slaughterhouse to be labeled as “organized crime,” Couto says he is hopefully penalties will be strengthened against those charged in connection with the operation. Four men face charges. They are: Gregorio Santa Ana (owner); Henry Gustavo Parra Oporta; Ruben Rodriguez; and Jose Armando Soilis, according to various news agencies.

Couto says he is hopeful that, if convicted, the sentence levied against these large-scale operations will be even harsher than the automatic felony laws already in place in Florida, which mandate a minimum three-year prison sentence for those convicted of illegal slaughter.

“Being titled organized crime changes things, I can assure you,” he says. “It makes it a much larger issue than just a few animals killed every week.”

37 responses to “Largest illegal US slaughterhouse raided, closed”

  1. Isabelle Zablocki


  2. Anthony

    This is ludacris….i live in the south. I was born and raised to hunt… BUT HAVE I EVER HUNTED?! Hell no! Why u might ask? BECAUSE ITS WRONG! IF A 4 YEAR OLD CAN FIGURE THAT OUT THEN WHY CANT THE REST OF THE WORLD? i eat meat and im not saying to stop eating meat im saying there are better waysbto go about this. In the old days they used to just grab a chicken and sling it while holding onto the neck and it would rip its head off. HENCE the saying running around like a chicken with its head cut off…( so fucking sick) now in all of the progress humans have made in the last 100 years and the slaughter just got worse and even more degrading and macabre! Wondefuk lives and quick deaths tjat are painless its a simple remedy to a probelm that affects the emotions of billions. god says we are supposed to eat animals….the important part of all that is the select few he names… FISH is the only one i can remember for sure… Fish not mammals not dolphins and whales ya dumb mother truckers! anything alive can feel pain and if you can cause pain to another living being then in my book your heartless and insane. I dont associate with a lot of my family anymore bc they hunt. If my kids were starving dont get me wrong ill strangle a damn deer to death but when its not neccesary GROW UP were killing off MILLIONS of species and destroying entire ecosystems just so we can have turtle soup and shark fin soup. WHO NEEDS TO EAT A TURTLE?! A FUCKING TURTLE?! or an alligator. That pisses me off sooo bad alligators are ancient creatures just like sharks some of the oldest we know of and WE EAT THEM?! how stupid we must look to an advanced civilization if they ever did manage to find us through light years of space…. Hey whats on this planet. They look down and see billions of little things eating anything and everything in their path AHHHHHHHHHH WARP 9 PRONTO! Humans are the most beautiful and wonderful things at the same time were the most destructive hateful sickening creatures to ever grace this planet… I wish i had been born later in human history after people have begun to evolve past all this bullshit… I honeslty think it all ties in to money…no money no problems.. Think about it almost everyones problems in this world revolve around money. I got way off topic and zipped all over the place here but thanks for reading…

  3. Letty

    Thank you, and pardon the narcissist in these comments that condones horse slaughter.

  4. William Labrador

    Can someone explain to me what is the humane way of killing an animal for consumption purposes..? Whatever method use the end result is the same… By Eating a steak at a fancy restaurant you are helping the slaughter house making a living.. stop the double standard and become more active on helping get rid of crime on human by human.. Stop the violence on human.. That is a real issue..

    1. Michele Murphy

      We all have our battles…what are you doing to help your cause?

  5. diogenes11

    If they cannot be sent to Hell, then send them to jail for life and if that is not possible then change the laws now.

  6. Rms

    Deport the cubins and problem solved

  7. Peggy Reimer

    Horse meat was openly enjoyed by Americans WELL into the 1970’s. FYI, slaughtering horses IS NOT ILLEGAL IN THE US! However, selling the meat IS, simply because the AR’s pressured the government to not allow USDA inspection & stamping. Horses are livestock people, NOT pets…Get a grip. What a cluster f**k! The forced closing of slaughterhouses by a bunch of frigging ignorant, tree-hugger, city people, many of whom have NEVER hunted for, or grown their own food or livestock have ruined the whole equine industry. Thanks for ruining my previous profession idiots…What a bunch of tools!

    1. Cyd Lichter-Khayter

      Eugenics was practiced in the US also. Maybe we should bring that back?

    2. Paula Martin

      Peggy Reimer- Horses are companion animals to many people there fore they are pets, most people don’t eat horses, I am absolutely glad That i was able to help Ruin your previous profession, I am not a ” CITY ” person and have never hugged a tree, but people like you sure make me want to start.And you can include your self in that idiot remark too.

  8. Candy Chitty

    Ninety-nine percent of slaughterhouses are very cruel places. They terrorize and torture all the creatures doomed to this horrible death. I lived on a ranch where we ate our own beef but the animals chosen for our table never knew what hit them and one minute they’re chewing their cuds and the next minute it’s lights out. I have no problem with that. It’s the industrialized manner in which we kill these animals that I have a problem with. The men that do this disgusting job enjoy torturing and killing otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. I appreciate and value people like Couto. There’s so few human beings like him.

    1. Susan Salk

      I believe it. And I applaud you for your lifestyle.

  9. Joe Walker

    LOL blocking comments that contradict the post makes you as bad as the people who run illegal slaughter house.

    1. Susan Salk

      I have a comments policy, which is outlined under Comments Policy, linked from my masthead.

      Essentially, if a person is unwittingly libeling another person in the comments, I reserve the right, as major and minor newspapers and news outlets do, to delete the comments for the protection of the person making the comment. And for the fact that I am the final arbitrator of what gets into this space, and I take it very seriously. I don’t mind rants. I love debate. But, there is a limit, as there is in newspapers.

      Also, I did not “block” your comment, as you charge. I approved it first thing this morning, when I saw it.

      And, your point about vegetarianism/veganism is well taken. I know that I personally have thought a lot about about what meat/poultry products I consume, and have ruled out several because of my growing awareness of slaughter. One day I expect to become a Vegetarian.

      However, I disagree that meat consumer can’t object to unnecessarily barbarism in the slaughterhouse, in general. This is why people like me shop at supermarkets that buy local produce, from local farms, etc.

      And with the specific issue of horse slaughter, we all have every right to object to this. Taking the softer side of the argument out of it, horse meat is tainted with drugs that are not used in our food commodities. There are studies that show the very popular, widely used horse medication Bute causes cancer in humans.

      So even if I did not love horses, and value them as companion animals, like dogs and cats, or champion racehorses, etc., I would object to consuming food that has been treated with drugs potentially dangerous to humans.


    2. Peggy Reimer

      Funny how my post has ‘vanished’….Can’t have any other viewpoints on here.

      1. Peggy Reimer

        Oh, wait, my comment is still ‘awaiting moderation’…I apologize.

        1. Laurie

          Peggy you obviously do not have horses (thankfully). Kindly keep your comments to yourself if you are going to go on here and label people who care about other living beings as tree huggers and other names. You should be ashamed of yourself supporting these slaughterhouses. These places are horrific for any living being.

  10. Joe Walker

    I assume all of the people commenting here are vegans or at the very least vegetarians.

  11. Anne

    Unbelievable! The U.S. Has turned into a third world country. This isn’t the only illegal one either. Thank the lord we have people like Mr. Crouto and all the kind souls who kept watch at horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Amazing how brave these people are when dealing with helpless animals. They are worthless human beings. If we should call them human! This made me sick! I hope justice will be served.

  12. Cindy

    hope they all get a belly full of cancer
    and suffer horribly for a long period of time.!

  13. tara reffner

    Thanks you Richard Couto for closing this very horrible place. Keep up the good work. God bless

  14. Delrene Sims

    What a horrible place. Thank you Mr. Couto. Is is such important work you do, even though we all wish you were out of a job. Sadly we see so much rescue work. Thank you for being there for the innocent ones.

  15. Billie Flippo

    thank you !!!!!!! Unbelievable this is going on in the United States !
    Barbaric ways of killing/slaughtering animals
    Is unreal .
    So glad that you were on it !!!

  16. Jennifer

    Kudos to all involved with this rescue. I have to wonder, though, there all the animals that were seized were taken. It’s one thing to find placement resources for a couple hundred animals as is common in many puppy-mill/hoarder raids, but 9500?!

  17. Martha.

    I was thinking the same thing as Cyd Lichter – Khayter. Not only should the owners and the people running the slaughter house be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but those buying the meat from these illegal and filthy slaughter houses, should face harsh penalty as well. That restaurants bought meat from this place makes me ill on it’s own. And individuals as well? I hope those people get sick from the consumption of whatever meat they purchase. There is NO need for this to be happening here in the States.

  18. Kathryn Webers

    My utmost wish is that Mr Couto would find himself out of a job.
    Shame on authorities in south FL who have failed for years and years to shut down this illegal, unregulated, unsafe slaughter …. and for their theft and misrepresentation of ownership of horses and other animals that are slaughtered by individuals in the Miami region.
    How can this continue year after year after year?
    Shame on municipal and county officials there. How dare they fail to stop this. Fools, all.

  19. Michelle Y.

    I also want to say “God bless Richard Couto”. He is truly an angel on earth. I encourage everyone to donate to his mission if you can. Without him, so many more innocent animals would have lost their lives.

  20. Liz

    I just wanted to say that I believe, that this is also a very political problem considering that I love of our political figures in Florida are Cuban or Cuban descent. I understand they’re serious about their culture, that it is illegal and as trusted politicians, Who were voted into position by the residents of Florida they need to abide by the rules. They need to get rid of all the illegal slaughter houses and if they must eat pork, he needs to be done is humanely as possible. It is unrealistic to think that no one’s going to eat meat again. However, boil he needs to be done is humanely as possible. It is unrealistic to think that no one’s going to eat meat again. But boiling animals alive, its horrible.

  21. Lee Laroche

    you truly are a hero Mr. Couto! Thank you!!

  22. Faith - GreenacresWV

    Couto is based in Miami, Florida.

    The immigrant population in the region often prefers goat or horse meat and will purchase from back alley meat shops. Ethnic food vendors probably purchased from this operation as well. In that area there are numerous reports of horses being tied to a tree and butchered alive for their prime parts.

    You can learn more about Animal Recovery Mission – A.R.M. (not to be confused with another not-so-honest organization using the same initials) here:

  23. Cyd Lichter-Khayter

    Well done! Who bought the animal carcasses? If they were sold to businesses shouldn’t they be held accountable as well?

  24. Cindy Crank

    Well done…we need more caring people like you. Let’s hope the guilty are charged and penalized heavily….it is high time the courts got really tough with these nasty kinds of people. So sad that thousands died horrific deaths before you and your group saved the rest!

  25. Louise Martin

    God Bless You, Richard!! I pray that this is only the beginning!

    Thank you Susan, this is so important for everyone to be aware of this, not just horse lovers!!

  26. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    God Bless Richard “Kuto” Couto. He is a savior of animals and a hero in so many ways. Thank you Mr. Couto for all that you do…

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