Westland owners settle HSUS lawsuit

Published on: Dec 17, 2012

A settlement has been reached in which co-owners of the defunct Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. have agreed to make payments over the next five years totaling $316,802 to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the U.S. Government for their responsibility for animal abuse in 2008, according to an announcement by HSUS Nov. 16.

The judgment -- the largest court-awarded judgment ever for animal abuse -- cannot be collected because of the company's insolvency but sets a precedent to deter future incidents of animal cruelty, according to the announcement.

Meat producers "should take notice" that if they defraud the American people and U.S. government by abusing animals, "there will be serious consequences for their inhumane and reckless actions," said Jonathan Lovvorn, HSUS senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation.

An HSUS undercover investigator, four years ago, clandestinely filmed workers at Westland, a cull dairy cow processor, engaged in egregious animal handling practices in which workers tried to get non-ambulatory cows to stand to pass inspection to be processed (Feedstuffs, Feb. 4).

The company was the second-largest supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program, and the video and the subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture prompted the largest meat recall in history and pushed the company into bankruptcy closure and liquidation.

The recall was based on the possibility that the actions of workers may have permitted tainted beef to enter the food supply.

HSUS, joined by the U.S. Department of Justice, brought litigation against nine owners of and/or investors in the company on the grounds that they had made "false claims" in misrepresenting their compliance with the lunch program that requires humane animal handling.

The judgment last week was against Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr., who agreed to cooperate fully in the balance of the case by providing HSUS and justice department attorneys with documents pertinent to the matter.