A California man has been charged with five counts of violating the state's Food and Agriculture Code stemming from allegations that he illegally butchered pigs and sold meat from his home.
Charges against Artxezin “Art” Mariscal Amezcua, a 62-year-old retired teacher, include running an unlicensed operation, operating an unclean and unsanitary establishment and conducting the operation without a permit from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
According to Pigprogress.net, Amezcua taught government for more than 30 years at Santa Maria High School in Santa Maria, Calif., as well as ballet folklorico, a form of traditional Mexican folk dancing, for 20. He was considered by many to be Santa Barbara County's foremost folklorico expert.
Food and Agriculture's senior special investigator, Rhett Dunn, said in his report that Amezcua's facility lacked walls to protect the meat dirt, debris and insects. He also saw flies, livestock fecal and urine waste, rodents, cockroaches and an unfenced drainage pit 10-feet-deep filled with blood and stagnant water. Surfaces like chopping blocks and cutting tables and tools including knives, hanging hooks and meat saws had not been sanitized in years and appeared to be very dirty.
Lompocrecord.com has an except from Dunn's report:
“Mr. Amexcua (sic) is selling meat which is not under state or federal inspection,” Dunn wrote. “If this meat was tested in a lab, it would certainly have some form of bacteria, which can make his customers sick or potentially die.”
Amezcua has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and says he has a verbal agreement with the District Attorney's office that the charges will be dropped if his operation is licensed by July 31, when he is due back in court.
Speaking to the website, Amezcua stressed that he wasn't selling cut meat, but rather whole pigs. His operation is indicative of cultural practices in the region, he explained.
“In our culture here ... a lot of people want whole carcasses,” he said. “No one (else) does that. ... In a sense, we were doing a service for the community.”
Amezcua went on to say that the charges are a misunderstanding and that the government has been "supportive and helpful," and that he plans to obtain any permits necessary to keep running his business.
Photo by Flickr user Michael Cory.