By ROB PREECE
Two men have appeared in court after gruesome undercover footage emerged of a slaughterhouse where investigators believe pigs were cut into pieces before being killed.
Gelio Hernandez, 50, and Angel Busurot, 46, are accused of inhumanely slaughtering the animals and selling their meat.
The two men from Miami, Florida, who each face up to 15 years in prison if they are found guilty, have denied the charges.
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Investigators believe the slaughtering operation has been running for some time, with Busurot being the ringleader.
Richard Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission, told WSVN: ‘This guy has been butchering animals alive for years and years.’
Mr Couto added: ‘Any butchering alive case that we investigate is pretty horrific.
‘Just imagine being taken apart and disassembled while you are still alive.’
Authorities suspect that pigs and goats have been kept in poor conditions and cut up while still alive.
Accused: Gelio Hernandez (left) and Angel Busurot (right) deny inhumanely slaughtering the animals and selling their meat illegally
Their meat has then been sold illegally, investigators say.
Mr Couto said: ‘The animals are being beaten, they’re not being fed properly, and worst of all is that they’re being taken apart prior to death.’
He said the operation was shut down back in 2010 but re-emerged.
‘They weren’t hit hard enough with penalties and prosecuted properly,’ he added.
Mr Couto believes that some of the meat was sold to local restaurants.
It is estimated that as many as 1,000 illegal slaughterhouses could be operating in Florida.
He said: ‘I’m sure that some of the smaller mom and pop butcher shops and restaurants are getting their meat for human consumption from some of these farms.
‘Some of these smaller butcher shops and restaurants are buying this meat at half-price compared to if they would from a legal distributor.’
The killing is said to have taken place at a site down a dirt road in Northwest Miami-Dade.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said: ‘At that location, the defendants engaged in the commercial slaughter of swine and goats.
‘Hernandez and Busurot also processed, handled, stored, and sold the meat and meat food products at the site for human consumption.’
Hernandez defended himself by uploading a video on YouTube, in which he accused environment officials of harassment.
He said in Spanish: ‘The allegations that the government is making, that these properties are a wetland, it’s a big lie.
‘This is a conspiracy of different agencies in Miami-Dade.’