Illicit slaughter operation in Idaho is target of investigation after suspicious fire; group says public health at risk

A street on the northern edge of Idaho Falls, ID, looks like others without much going on. But a Florida-based Animal Recovery Mission says the quiet country road hides an animal slaughter operation that threatens human health and animal welfare.

And after a search warrant was obtained this past Friday by the local sheriff and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, a suspicious fire broke out on Saturday in the same area, which had to be put down by the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) reports are filed with the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Department, Bonneville Animal Services, Idaho Department of Environmental Affairs, Eastern Idaho Public Health, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services. They point to an illegal slaughter operation with the capacity of putting down 30 animals a day for human consumption.

ARM is a nonprofit based in Miami Beach that investigates animal cruelty. It was acting on a anonymous tip when it discovered an “illegal backyard butcher shop” owned and operated by Luis Zamora and his brothers. “It has been operating without any business licenses and permits for over 25 years,” ARM said.

“The Zamora brothers are inhumanely slaughtering and illegally selling un-inspected, potentially tainted meat to the greater community of Idaho at small food markets, catering events, and directly from the property,” it added. “The public’s health and safety are at grave risk with potentially diseased meat entering the food supply given the animals’ feeble health and unsanitary conditions of the meat processing areas.”

ARM reports that animal waste, blood, and body parts are being dumped into a public canal system that others in the community are using for swimming and normal agricultural uses.

Animal torture, conditions of squalor, and even the sale of animals for sacrificial ceremonies and Voodo and Black Magic practices were documented by ARM.

USDA’s Humane Slaughter Act, which requires animals to be stunned and rendered unconscious before slaughter is not followed. Instead,  animals are dragged by ropes and choked, hammered to death, or stabbed in the heart while conscious.

The secret slaughterhouses do not provide clean drinking water and food. The animals are kept in small pens among dead and decaying carcasses.

ARM, which is the organization that found horses being slaughtered on Florida backroads, wants the Zamora slaughter operation shut down, the owners arrested and the animals on-site rescued.

“The torturous crimes that I witnessed in Idaho Falls prove that illegal slaughter is a national crisis,” said Richard “Kudo” Couto, ARM’s founder. “Law enforcement and regulators have to start paying attention and shut down these epicenters of disease, cruelty, and violence.”

Before founding ARM, in 2010 Couto was an investigator for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Since the fire, the animals on-site and control of the property have been under the control of the Bonneville County Sheriff.

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