Warning: The following page contains some graphic and disturbing images.
Richard "Kudo" Couto is the renegade animal activist who virtually single-handedly forced the closure of an entire thriving district of unlicensed slaughterhouses, pissing off loads of live-off-the-land Cubans in the process. Now he's turning his attention to publicizing the animal "torture" of Santeria sacrifices. This should make for a good fight.
Couto's Rambo act -- he wore a disguise, carried two guns, and disregarded property laws during solo nighttime "raids" of slaughterhouses -- received national media attention when his videos and research caused the lawless area known as the C-9 district, ground zero for Miami's horse meat black market, to be dismantled by authorities.
Couto now says that many of those slaughterhouses catered to the Santeria crowd, selling dogs, goats and chickens especially for vodou sacrifices. He routinely found mutilated animal corpses in the area.
"Some of these animals had their eyes missing, their genitalia missing," he says. "Most people think that santeria sacrifices are mainly goats. They don't know that dogs are also tortured too. With the Haitian population, the longer that the animal suffers, the quicker that the evil spirits will come forth."
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Couto hasn't stopped his commando raids--just switched target areas. He's currently stalking a puppy mill (there's a photo below) where he guesses "90 percent of the dogs and puppies" are going to be used for Santeria sacrifices.
The legality of ritual animal sacrifices has long been debated. In 1993, a Santeria-practicing church took a battle against the City of Hialeah all the way to the Supreme Court, where in a landmark decision the justices decided the sacrifices were an exercise of religious freedom. With Couto's knack for publicity, expect this issue to be rekindled.
Here are some of Couto's photos, which he says are evidence of a Santeria black market: