Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. animal abuse case settled

To settle a slaughterhouse abuse case that has led to the biggest meat recall in U.S. history in 2008, a $500 million agreement has been reached. The Humane Society of the United States announced Friday that a civil settlement with the owners of Westland/Hallmark Meat Company is the first time federal fraud statues have been used and the largest-ever penalty for an animal abuse case.

HSUS originally filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court in Riverside in 2009, and the U.S. Justice Department intervened after research showed that one of the packing plant partners had two felony convictions related to illegal industry practices. An undercover video showed sick or weak cows being dragged by chains, sprayed with water by employees who wanted them to stand and rammed by forklifts.

As a result of the video, 143 million pounds of beef were recalled. About 37 million pounds of that had gone to school lunch programs. The recall cost taxpayers $150 million.

The lawsuit claimed the company lied about meeting the conditions of its contracts and, therefore, the government paid the company money it was not entitled to.