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Unlicensed Nipomo hog butcher cleans up operation

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A tour of a Nipomo man’s property, where he allegedly operated an illegal pig slaughterhouse until recently, revealed a cleared concrete slab where the butchering had once been done and about 15 stout pigs in nearby pens.

The ranch owned by Artxezin Mariscal Amezcua and his family consists mostly of dirt, sheds and pens, in addition to a modest house in the front of the property at 1478 Camino Caballo near Sundale Way.

Some of the 200-plus-pound animals slept Monday under a canopy that provided shade, occasionally grunting or slurping from a water trough.

Amezcua’s operation was cited on suspicion of not being licensed and having unsanitary conditions, described in graphic detail in a report by a state Department of Food and Agriculture inspector.

Now Amezcua just wants to resolve his criminal case and make sure he’s complying with laws to continue his business.

“I retired last year after 35 years of teaching government and baile folklórico (dance) at Santa Maria High School,” Amezcua said. “We had this as a side business. My mother had it before me. We never did anything to try to hide what we were doing. We’ve already begun the training we need for compliance.”

Amezcua said his family has owned the nearly 6-acre property since 1959.

He said he grew up in a family that slaughtered and sold pigs, often for parties and special celebrations around town.

Amezcua said he recalled filing a business name for his operation in the 1980s and seeking the county’s permission as well, saying he thought he was properly licensed until the bust happened in February.

“I sell the pigs to a lot of local people of all backgrounds, Latinos, Filipino-Americans and Anglos, too,” Amezcua said. “I had a guy call me, a white guy, wanting a pig for the Fourth of July.”

Senior investigator Rhett Dunn from the state’s Food and Agriculture Department cited unsanitary conditions, including dried blood and animal hair left on slaughter equipment, and wrote that no proper licensing was in order.

Dunn also reported that the property had “numerous rodents, flies and livestock fecal/urine waste material on the ground where he illegally slaughters the animals.”

A 10-foot-deep drainage pit for the pig’s blood, also cited in the report, has been filled and the area cleaned up.

Amezcua said a state official already worked with him for seven hours over the course of a weekend to bring him up to speed on the type of facility he’ll need to have for a licensed slaughterhouse, which he estimates will cost about $70,000.

And the state official informed Amezcua of proper procedures, including looking for infections and treating live animals with medication when needed.

Despite the nature of the work he’d conduct, Amezcua said he has a deep appreciation for swine, calling them intelligent animals that are easy to train and don’t overeat.

“The only reason people think they’re unclean is because they like to lie in mud and moist dirt,” Amezcua said. “They don’t have sweat glands.”

Raymond Allen, Amezcua’s attorney, hopes the case will be dismissed.

“I would hope the district attorney would do the right thing,” Allen said. “I hope the prosecution will go through all the steps to make it right.”

A call to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for comment on the case late Monday afternoon wasn’t returned.

The charges

Artxezin Mariscal Amezcua of Nipomo pleaded not guilty May 1 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to five misdemeanor violations of the state Food and Agriculture Code. The charges include: unlawful slaughter and preparation of livestock, having an unlicensed operation, two counts of operating an unclean establishment, and operating a meat processing establishment after failing to file an application. He has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for July 30.

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