Republican U.S. Senate frontrunner Marco Rubio is getting on the wrong side of animal-rights activists who say his decision to post a twitter photo of a Christmas Eve pig slaughter was not only in poor taste -- it could have taken place at an illegal abattoir.
Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos denies the charge and said everything was on the up and up.
"This is not a USDA approved slaughter farm. This is not his home. This is an illegal operation," said Richard Couto, founder of the Miami-based Animal Recovery Mission, which fights what he says is a rash of illegal slaughter operations in the county.
"Most of the illegal farms have these wooden tables. You have four guys holding this pig down. It looks like this hog is still alive. The only time four men hold down a hog is when it is being slaughtered alive," Couto said.
But Burgos said Couto is off base. "There's no way four men could hold down a live pig that large," Burgos said, estimating the pig at 180 pounds.
He said Rubio snapped the photo at a Miami-Dade farm (he didn't know where) after the pig had been electrocuted (the common method of killing an animal). He said the men in the photo are preparing the pig to be roasted by removing the hog's hair.
"This is a Rubio family tradition enjoyed by thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people of Cuban-American descent every Christmas Eve," Burgos said. "It's Marco's way of giving insight into how his family spends Christmas Eve."
But Couto said he's looking for more proof to show that Marco Rubio doesn't "support the illegal industry going on in Miami-Dade." Couto said illegal slaughter operations break federal and state sanitary laws as well as local building and zoning rules. In addition, he said, they're cruel.
Couto said he learned of the tweet and photo this week and was profoundly disturbed. Rubio likely anticipated a backlash when he posted the photo with the cutline: "Working on the 2009 Rubio family Christmas eve pig. Warning picture not for the faint of heart."
Could there be a political backlash for the grotesque photo? Probably not in a Republican primary, where vegans and animal-rights groups probably couldn't muster much of a caucus.
Rubio's bigger political pig problem might be about pork of a different sort -- big-government spending that he now decries. But as state House Speaker in 2007 and 2008, he presided over budgets that had extra millions for Miami-Dade -- from $800,000 for artificial turf on Miami-Dade fields where he played flag football to the $20 million extra for two years for Jackson Memorial Hospital. It awarded him a no-bid consulting gig after he left government. The special line item for Jackson then disappeared from the budget. More here, here and here