The illegal horsemeat market west of Miami might still be going officially un-noticed were it not for last year’s discovery of 21 carcasses that drew attention to the grisly business.
Illegal horsemeat for sale means that at least one illegal slaughterhouse was in operation.
Properties containing those facilities became the target of an old-fashioned law enforcement raid by a small army of local, state, and federal agencies earlier this week. It all came down in the area west of Hialeah Gardens when unlicensed slaughterhouses have operated all but in the open for years.
No horsemeat was recovered, but officers handed out more than 100 citations for violations ranging from building code violations to unlicensed slaughterhouses. On the chain link fence on property owned by Eddy and Maria Zumeta, violation notices were hung like laundry on a wash line with potential fines totaling $2,000.
The five-acre property, according to officials, contains an unlicensed pig farm and slaughterhouse. The raiders also cut off power to the property.
Eddy Zumeta, 65, denies slaughtering horses. He says he raises pigs only to feed his family and actually runs a legitimate nursery business.
“Ranchos” in the area west of the Florida Turnpike and north of Okeechobee Road have long been known as a source of butchered pigs, goats, and chickens. Last year’s discovery turned attention to the area as a market for illegal horsemeat.
“This sends a pretty strong message that we take the illegal slaughter and brutality to these animals very seriously,” said the Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “We are not going to tolerate it.”
This week’s raid was in the works for some time. It came after the Miami-Dade Commission passed a resolution last November calling for a crack down.
By working together, law enforcement used federal food safety and tax codes, environmental regulations, animal welfare laws, and the county building and neighborhood compliance code to rein in the area.