Food News

Eat Horse Meat, Spend a Year in a Florida Jail (Updated)

Last year, somebody

killed and ate Ivonne Rodriguez's quarter horse, Geronimo.

If

that somebody tries the same thing next year, he will likely spend at

least a year in jail and pay a $3,500 fine. The Florida House of

Representatives is poised to pass a bill making it a felony to traffic

in illegal horse meat. They're calling it the Ivonne Rodriguez Horse

Protection Act.

"My horse had been tied to a palm tree and

slaughtered," Rodriguez wrote in 2009.

"This is something that has to be stopped." (So far there have been no

arrests.)

I don't like the bill

much. Sure, Florida regulators have passed the buck on regulating horse

butchery. In the '90s, they assigned regulation to the feds, who

dropped the ball. And it is a tragedy that Rodriguez's beauty, Geronimo, was cut up and buried under a bunch of palm fronds. There were at least

19 others thus whacked last year in South Florida.


But mandatory minimum sentences are no good. Judges ought to be able

to decide how to penalize bad guys. And the new bill -- which is almost

certain to pass the House but could hang up in the Senate -- adds

"transporting, distributing, purchasing, or possessing" as crimes.

Businesses would lose their licenses for selling the stuff.

"This isn't like drugs; you don't get addicted to horse meat," says Florida Rep. Luis Garcia, a Democrat who represents

much of Central Miami-Dade and is sponsoring the bill in the House. "This is one crime where if we attack the demand, we just might lessen the crime."

He adds the bill has

been amended to regulate treatment of polo ponies

too. It's now ready to be voted on by the full House and has been

approved by one Senate committee. Good politics, but who in hell eats

polo ponies?

I mean, really, in South Florida, perhaps the

nation's most cosmopolitan area, people eat this stuff. It should

certainly be better regulated. But this law won't do the trick. Better

enforcement will -- and money so that cops and committed folks, such as the SPCA's Laurie Waggoner,

can investigate nasty killings when they happen.

Still, you have

to like the way Garcia talks about he problem. "In the old West, they used to

hang people for this," he says. "I don't want to sound like Clint Eastwood, but I say, 'Hang 'em high.' "

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse