OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — The Animal Recovery Mission, a private group of animal cruelty investigators, said Tuesday it has recorded new footage and evidence of cattle being abused in Okeechobee County.
The group says the abuse is occurring at illegal, underground events known as "Coleaderos" or steer tailing.
The violent game entails slamming cattle to the ground by their tails.
The Animal Recovery Mission said steer tailing is banned in parts of the U.S as well as in South and Central America.
In the undercover footage, people can be seen chasing the cattle on horseback, wrapping their tails around their foot and slamming the steer to the ground.
WARNING: This is hard to watch.@ARMInvestigatio spent a year+ investigating "steer-tailing" in Okeechobee County- a violent game of slamming cattle to the ground by their tails in underground rodeos. They hope their investigation will shut this down @SavanahResnik @WPTV pic.twitter.com/qsHTHJhz4t— Meghan McRoberts (@MeghanWPTV) March 23, 2021
ARM founder Richard Couto was the one who recorded some of this video after being tipped off by concerned residents in Okeechobee.
Couto said he went to the games for nearly a year and a half.
"Animals are dying from this. They're breaking their necks. They’re breaking their limbs. The tails on the animals are breaking in various spots of their bodies," Couto said.
He said cows are often exhausted after running for up to eight hours without water.
Couto also said the horses are whipped and at times suffer broken legs -- far different from legal, regulated rodeos.
"Things like a veterinarian would be required to be at these events. There's no such thing," Couto said. "They're being prodded and electrocuted nonstop by drunk adults and juveniles. We had 6-year-olds with cattle prods."
He said more illegal activity is also occurring at these events.
"There's no business license. There’s no insurance. They’re selling liquor illegally. They're selling food illegally. They're running a business illegally," Couto said.
He said he turned over all of his evidence to the USDA and Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff's office said it does have an active investigation for steer tailing. Couto said he’s speaking out now because he feels that's the best way to shut it down.
"We deliver a case hoping they take action. If they don't take action, then we’ll go public with it," Couto said.
He's also working with a Miami lawmaker to try to propose a state ban to the practice, hoping to make this the last year for the games.
"I just don’t think they think law enforcement or any kind of agency is going to take action on them. Why? Because they never have," Couto said.