In 2009, an undercover investigation lead by COK exposed disturbing cruelty at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries, where millions of ducklings and chicks who would eventually head to the slaughterhouse were processed. Hatchlings were thrown across the room into buckets by workers, injured, mutilated and skinned alive on machinery and left to suffer and shoved down an egg disposal chute with a high-pressure hose while they were still alive, among other horrors.
The footage that was obtained was turned over to the Santa Cruz Animal Service Authority (SCASA) who investigated the issue. Despite public outcry, mounting evidence and a recommendation to prosecute from the SCASA, the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges under the premise that there wasn’t enough evidence for a criminal case.
In January, COK, represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), filed a lawsuit arguing that the evidence obtained in the investigation constituted felony animal cruelty in violation of California law, and the cruelty in turn constituted illegal and unfair business practices in violation of the California Business and Professions Code.
According to a statement from the ALDF:
The parties have issued a joint statement clarifying that this settlement resolves “all claims relating to an unfair business practices lawsuit based on alleged animal cruelty at the hatchery.” Key points include:
- “Cal-Cruz Hatcheries is no longer in operation, closed a few months ago, and has therefore agreed to no longer own, keep possess, or have custody of any animal.”
- Hatchery owner “Brian Collins has agreed that he will not be in any way legally responsible for the welfare of animals in a commercial setting for five years.”
- “Notwithstanding and as a term of the settlement, Cal-Cruz and Brian Collins expressly deny any liability or responsibility in the matter.”
The defendants have also agreed to pay a portion of plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, and, according to a court order, Collins is permanently banned from treating animals as depicted in COK’s video.
According to COK, this is the first time animal cruelty allegations were successfully resolved using this civil law.
“This groundbreaking case paves a new way to seek―and achieve―justice for abused farmed animals. While our work is never done, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this definitively ensures the end of animal suffering at this factory farm,” said COK general counsel Cheryl Leahy.
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