Westland Hallmark Meat Co. came under fire in 2008 after undercover footage of horrific abuse was brought to light by the media, which resulted in one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history and now the largest settlement ever for a case involving animal abuse.
The footage was obtained by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at a slaughterhouse in Chino, California, and showed workers torturing downed cows — those to weak or sick to stand or walk on their own — by kicking them, ramming them with a forklift, dragging them with chains, hosing them and shocking them, among other violent acts, in an attempt to get them up to walk to their deaths.
Westland Hallmark was a supplier to the National School Lunch Program and as such was required to follow strict animal welfare standards. The lawsuit was brought under the False Claims Act as a result of the company’s failure to live up to its contract, in addition to potentially allow contaminated meat into the food supply.
On Friday, a partial settlement was reached between two of the nine defendants in the case with the federal government entering a final judgement against Westland Hallmark for $497 million — a record setting judgment for a case involving animal abuse.
Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr. agreed to pay $316, 802 over the next five years to the Department of Justice, which joined the case with the intention of recovering $150 million in taxpayer money wasted on the recall, while the HSUS will receive a “small portion of the settlement proceeds for its role in successfully prosecuting the case.”
The Hallmarks also agreed to work with the government and the HSUS in litigation against the remaining defendants.
Unfortunately, since Westland Hallmark is bankrupt, the full judgment won’t be collected, but the HSUS is calling it a deterrence judgment, which will hopefully set a precedent and deter future occurrences of abuse.
“The meat industry should take notice that if they defraud federal agencies and the American taxpayers by abusing animals, there will be serious consequences for their inhumane and reckless actions,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS. “We commend the U.S. Department of Justice for joining The Humane Society of the United States in seeking to hold federal meat suppliers accountable.”
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