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Slaughterhouse in largest U.S. beef recall settles animal-abuse case

A worker throws a piece of meat among the cattle carcass scraps dropped into a parked truck at the Hallmark Meat Packing slaughterhouse in Chino in 2008. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

The owners of a Chino slaughterhouse that was the subject of the largest beef recall in U.S. history four years ago as a result of an undercover video agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged fraud against the U.S. government, an animal rights group announced Friday.

Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr. were two of nine defendants in a federal False Claims Act suit brought by the Humane Society of the United States. The organization in 2008 released a video surreptitiously shot by an activist that seemed to show workers at the Hallmarks’ slaughterhouse using forklifts, electric prods and high-pressure water hoses to force cattle to their feet.

The video sparked outrage at the animals’ treatment and also led to food safety concerns because the Hallmark plant was the second-largest supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture at the time recalled 143 million pounds of beef processed at the plant over the last two years, about a third of which had gone to schools.

The recall effort cost the government an estimated $150 million, according to a Humane Society release.

The Humane Society sued the plant and its owners under a federal law that allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the U.S. government to file a lawsuit to recover penalties. The group alleged the Hallmarks defrauded the government through misrepresentation on their federal school lunch program contracts.

The Humane Society said in its release the group will also receive a "small portion" of the settlement for bringing the case. 

The Hallmarks, according to the release, will pay $316,802 to the U.S. Department of Justice over five years, and cooperate in the suit against the remaining defendants. A nominal $497 million judgment is expected to be entered against the defunct Hallmark Meat Packing Co., according to the Humane Society.

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-- Victoria Kim

Photo: A worker throws a piece of meat among the cattle carcass scraps dropped into a parked truck at the Hallmark Meat Packing slaughterhouse in Chino in 2008. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

 
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