For months now horse poachers have terrorized horse owners in South Florida. At least 17 horses have been slaughtered, sometimes right in their own pasture, with parts of their carcasses removed, ostensibly for meat.
I will admit that I have studiously avoided reading the articles or looking at the photographs until I read they had arrested someone who has admitted to killing at least one of the horses. The images are graphic and upsetting and the idea that someone would sneak onto private property and cut the throat of a beloved pet sends shivers down my spine and would make me sleep in my barn with a shot gun if I lived in Dade county.
The person now in custody, Luis Miguel Cordero, only recently turned 18. He is obviously not the mastermind behind the operation; rather he is one of the cogs. He was caught because he asked a neighbor to help him kill two horses, offering a $2,000 payment. Instead, the neighbor called the police and agreed to wear a wire. An undercover officer posing as an “uncle” who was interested in horse meat, made the arrest. Dade County officials are not sure if Cordero is part of a larger operation. He was hired to do the first killing but seemed to have branched out on his own for the second.
It’s difficult to tell whether the butchering of these horses was done by by an organized group, or whether it’s a series of random events. The newspaper articles talk about the fact that horse meat can be sold on the black market. The questions are, to whom? and for what? Not to be overly gruesome, but the parts of the horses that were taken were not necessarily prime. Several horses had their legs removed, for example.
I’ve read speculation that the meat and bones were sold to feed fighting dogs (chewing on hard bones is supposed to help increase the strength of the dogs’ jaws), to feed exotic animals, and even more strangely, to be eaten by weight lifters (who claim horse meat is more beneficial than protein drinks). Health officials warn that eating black market horse meat can be dangerous because often horses have ingested drugs that could be harmful; selling horse meat for human consumption is illegal in the U.S.
I hope that this arrest will help authorities identify and capture more of these poachers. Until then, Floridians still need to guard against the potential loss of their beloved horses in whatever ways they can. To date, the reward for the identification and capture of these criminals is up to $20,000.