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$3 million Settlement in Downed Cattle Abuse Fraud Case

28 November 2013

US - A California slaughterhouse is to pay out more than $3 million in a fraud case in which the Humane Society of the US exposed abuse to downed animals.

The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed by The Humane Society of the United States against the owners and investors responsible for the 2008 downed animal abuse scandal in Chino, California.

The HSUS' investigation into the mistreatment of animals at the country's second largest ground beef supplier to the National School Lunch Program led to the largest meat recall in US history and the bankruptcy of several of the companies responsible.

The lawsuit alleged that the owners and investors of Westland/Hallmark slaughter facilities defrauded the federal government by violating the terms of their federal school lunch program contracts, which required the humane handling of animals.

The US Department of Justice intervened in the case and joined The HSUS in seeking to recover millions in taxpayer money spent on potentially tainted and inhumanely produced ground beef.

Peter Petersan, The HSUS’ director for animal protection litigation, said: "This judgment sends a strong message to those who profit from the abuse of farm animals. Although numerous line workers have been prosecuted for farm animal cruelty over the last decade, this is the first time the consequences of animal cruelty have been felt by those sitting in the corner office as well."

Under the terms of the final consent decree, the principal owners and investors will forfeit virtually all of their remaining assets, for a total settlement of $3,116,802.

A partial settlement with two defendants entered in November 2012 resulted in a $316,802 payment.

A final judgment will also be entered against Westland Meat Packing Company in the amount of $155,684,827.

This is the full value of the fraud claim, but cannot be satisfied due to the defendants’ lack of assets. It is the largest monetary judgment ever entered in the United States based on animal abuse and is intended to deter future animal cruelty in the nation’s slaughterhouses.

Last year, two of the defendants agreed to entry of a $500 million final judgment, but that figure was reduced to $155 million as part of the final settlement with the remaining defendants.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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