A dark world of animal abuse is proliferating in Florida. Known as “backyard slaughter,” animals are illegally slaughtered and butchered on makeshift farms. The banned meat is then sold on the black market. Animals suffer immense cruelty, starvation, botched “live” slaughters, and are kept in disgusting and diseased yards. That is why ALDF filed a lawsuit in Florida’s 13th District Court in Tampa against Cuesta Farm (aka “Quality Cattle”) and Planchart Farm (aka “B.P. Screens”), whose gruesome violations of animal cruelty and nuisance laws are brought to light in shocking undercover video investigation captured by the Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), Richard “Kudo” Couto’s nonprofit investigative organization.
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As Florida law allows its citizens to bring forth “public nuisance” lawsuits, ALDF is representing residents of Hillsborough County in the lawsuit who are alarmed by criminal violations of public health codes and animal slaughter and disposal laws, illegal sale of horse, cow, and pig meat, and horrifying cruelty to animals found in these yards. ALDF’s landmark case marks the first time Florida residents have sued to stop the unspeakable acts of cruelty committed by backyard butchers and the threat to public health, safety, and quality of life they pose.
ALDF’s lawsuit targets “backyard butchers” on farms where horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, and birds are slaughtered, butchered, and sold for public consumption without any governmental oversight. On both farms, animals are routinely dragged, bludgeoned, stabbed, and butchered while still alive. Florida’s humane slaughter laws and cruelty codes prohibit such malicious acts of animal abuse. Although hobbyists and illegal entrepreneurs alike seek to profit from illegally confining, breeding, and slaughtering animals, as ALDF’s investigation shows, the horror animals endure at makeshift farms is unconscionable.
Children are often present at both the slaughter and the butchering of animals. As shown in the video, the defendants gut a pig and drag him with a meat hook while still alive and struggling. Another segment shows a defendant and an unidentified young girl torturing a goat by butchering him alive. They stab him, make holes in each of his hind legs with a knife to hang him from meat hooks, slice the nerves in his neck, and beat him with a meat cleaver. Death takes three to four minutes.
The Black Market Exposed
In a Florida subdivision called Citrus Park, many residents participate in backyard slaughter. Richard Couto, the undercover investigator from ARM, describes the confinement of animals on these types of farms as “basically torture chambers.” As documented by ARM’s investigation, illegally slaughtered horsemeat is sold on the black market. Slaughter pigs are fed discarded horse carcasses to hide the evidence of criminal activity and animal abuse. ALDF is stepping in to ensure these acts of cruelty come to an end, the offenders are punished, the health of citizens protected, and the tortured, abused, and butchered animals receive justice.
Public Nuisance and Health Threat
Backyard slaughter is also a major public health and nuisance issue. In violation of Florida’s health and safety codes, unsellable “byproducts” are discarded on site, sometimes on protected wetlands, and blood is disposed of by polluting local ground water. Sick and starved animals are slaughtered and sold to the general public in the black market. Dead and rotting carcasses of slaughtered animals are tossed into open pits where live animals are kept with toxic waste, in criminal violation of Florida law. Located in populated suburban areas, these backyard slaughterhouses put neighbors at serious risk of disease and stress. Robert Palin, a Citrus Park resident and plaintiff represented in ALDF’s lawsuit, is a disabled veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) for whom the constant sounds of gunshots coming from neighboring slaughter yards are extremely traumatic.
These “backyard butchers” are truly a danger to society. Two of the defendants have criminal records that demonstrate total disregard for the law. On farms like this, animals are tortured, whipped, confined in small spaces amongst reeking piles of garbage, shot and gutted while alive, starved, and then sold to the public in the black market. This is the price animals pay when backyard slaughter is allowed to proliferate.
ALDF’s lawsuit seeks to stop the ongoing, thoroughly documented animal abuse committed by defendants and to put an end to the public health threats these criminal butchers pose. In turn, we hope to set a legal precedent that would help concerned citizens shut down backyard slaughter nationwide.