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Hallmark to pay $500 million “symbolic” deterrent in animal abuse case

November 19, 2012
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The former owners of Hallmark Meat Packing Co. will pay $317,000 to settle a landmark federal fraud lawsuit over animal cruelty. The former owners of the plant, Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr., also agreed to a final judgment of $497 million, which was called a symbolic deterrent, as the company declared bankruptcy after the 2008 incident and resulting recall, reports USA Today.

The Humane Society of the United States secretly recorded and released a videotape of workers using electric prods, hoses and forklifts to get downer cattle to walk or be taken into slaughter. The video caused an immediate uproar that eventually led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

The lawsuit -- filed under the False Claims Act of 1863 -- accused the nine defendants of defrauding the federal government by not treating animals humanely, which is required to be a school lunch contractor. The suit was initially filed by the HSUS, and the Justice Department joined the lawsuit in 2009. The Hallmarks agreed to cooperate.

A settlement has yet to be reached with the remaining defendants: Steve Mendell, president of Westland/Hallmark; Anthony Magidow, general manager of Westland/Hallmark and administrator for the estate of his father Aaron Magidow, a partner in the meat companies; and various partner companies – Westland/Hallmark, Hallmark Meat Packing, Westland Meat Co., M&M Management LLC and Cattleman’s Choice.

"I'm glad it's over," the senior Hallmark, 78, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "I wasn't even there when this thing started; I was retired. I'm just stuck in this case because I don't know why."

Most of the settlement payments will go to the federal government; the Humane Society will receive $12,672 for its role in prosecuting the case.

Sources: USA Today, Riverside Press-Enterprise

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