Westland/hallmark meat company

A $500 million settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit against a company that owned a Chino slaughterhouse, which was at the center of an animal abuse scandal and the country's largest beef recall.
Two of the defendants, father and son Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr., who are alleged in the Department of Justice
complaint to be the owners and operators of the former Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co. will pay about $300,000 of their remaining assets to the Department of Justice.
Defendants also consented to pay the full judgment fine, but the punishment is largely symbolic because the formerly Riverside-based company is bankrupt, said Jon Lovvorn, attorney for the U.S. Humane Society.
The fine represents the largest court judgment ever entered for an animal abuse case, although it won't be collected because of Hallmark's insolvency. It is intended as a deterrence against future animal cruelty in American slaughterhouses, Lovvorn said.
"This is a critically important case because it shows that the abuse of farm animals have serious legal and economic consequences," he said.
"This is the first-ever federal government fraud case involving animal abuse."
Westland/Hallmark in 2008 voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of its beef after video evidence from the Humane Society showed two of its workers forcing downer cattle
A security guard at Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino exchanges words with media over the fence of the facility as one of the company trucks drives by on Jan. 30, 2008. (Daily Bulletin file photo)
down a slaughter line at the company's Chino plant - a violation of federal rules prohibiting meat from such animals because of a higher risk of mad cow disease. The video showed workers moving cows too sick to stand with a forklift, striking them in the face and eyes with a paddle and shocking the animals with an electric cattle prod.
Under the settlement, the Hallmarks have agreed to make structured payments over the next five years totaling $316,802.
They have also agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department and the Humane Society to settle the litigation against the remaining seven defendants, investors and owners, who are said to be peripheral to the company's operation.
"It's all settled now," said Donald Hallmark Sr., who lives in Chino and is retired.
Hallmark Sr., who is 78 now, said he's been involved the cattle industry ever since he was 10.
"That was all I ever did," Hallmark Sr. said. "I'm not ever going to get back into the business, that's for sure."
The Humane Society will be awarded a small portion of the settlement proceeds for its role in the investigation.
The company had been the second largest supplier of beef to the U.S. Department of Agriculture-run National School Lunch Program. About 50 million pounds of the beef involved in the recall was directed to the program, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Lovvorn said the defendants defrauded the federal government by violating the lunch program contracts requiring the humane handling of animals.
Janet Riley, spokesperson for the American Meat Institute, said the industry has been working hard for 20 years through welfare programs and slaughter plant design in order to ensure the humane slaughter of cattle.
Riley said the release of undercover video from the Chino plant had been shocking to those in the industry. She characterized the closure of the plant soon after as a wake up call for all in the industry.
"I think that message was sent long ago when the company went out of business," Riley said.
"I suppose the settlement will reinforce that original message. I think what happened to the company led us to make sure our plants are in order and our industry is in order."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source : http://www.whittierdailynews.com/picorivera/ci_22008115/chino-slaughterhouse-national-school-lunch-supplier-reaches-500