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  • Brennan Browne
    Since the almighty buck is the bottom line for those in the killing game, this strategy just may put many houses of horror out of business. At the very
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10 9:42 AM
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      Since the almighty buck is the bottom line for those in the killing game, this strategy just may put many houses of horror out of business. At the very least,  the owners of these assemblylines of death would be held financially accountable for the cruelty of their employees.


      May 07, 2009

      A Day of Reckoning

      I have written many times about the downed animal abuse scandal at the
      now-shuttered Hallmark/Westland
      Meat Company in Chino, Calif. An HSUS undercover investigator documented appalling
      abuses of downed dairy cows, and a series of
      actions followed: the largest recall of beef in the nation’s history, the
      conviction of two workers for animal cruelty, the closure of the Hallmark plant,
      and the issuance of new, upgraded federal regulations banning the slaughter of
      downer cattle.

      © The

      Last week, a new chapter of this story unfolded when a federal district court
      in Los Angeles unsealed a major False Claims Act lawsuit filed by The HSUS against
      the owners of Hallmark/Westland. The suit—recently joined by the U.S.
      Department of Justice—seeks to recover more than $150 million in taxpayer money
      spent on potentially tainted ground beef by the USDA and shipped to school lunch
      programs in dozens of states.
      I asked Jonathan
      Lovvorn, our vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection
      Litigation and Research, to offer his observations about this case, and what it
      means for the hundreds of other slaughterhouses that operate under federal
      contracts requiring suppliers to ensure the humane treatment of animals at their

      At the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed an obscure law
      designed to crack down on the sale of sick and injured horses and mules to the
      Army by unscrupulous defense contractors.
      The statute—known as the False Claims
      Act—empowers private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the U.S.
      government to bring a lawsuit, called a qui tam suit, on behalf of the United
      States to recover significant civil penalties and treble damages. Such
      whistleblowers are statutorily entitled to 25 percent of the total recovery—a
      powerful incentive for workers to blow the whistle on government fraud.
      This Civil War era statute came full circle last week when The HSUS’s lawsuit
      against Hallmark/Westland for selling meat from sick and injured dairy cows was
      unsealed by the federal court in Los Angeles. After a hiatus of nearly 150
      years, the False Claims Act is once again being applied to animals too sick or
      injured to walk.
      The suit fills an important gap in the story of the Hallmark/Westland downed
      animal abuse scandal. Close observers of the events surrounding Hallmark know
      all too well that despite all the recalls, criminal prosecutions, and policy
      reforms enacted in the wake of the inexcusable events in Chino last year, a few
      prominent players have yet to see their day of reckoning—the
      This is not uncommon in a factory farm abuse case. In a typical case—and
      there have been dozens over the last five years—the owners of facilities caught
      on tape abusing animals rapidly and effectively shift all responsibility for
      such abuses to low-level employees—many of whom end up the target of criminal
      prosecution for abuses undertaken at the direction of company management.
      This was the certainly the case at Hallmark. Although two workers were
      prosecuted and convicted of criminal animal cruelty, the actual owners of
      Hallmark/Westland faced no criminal charges at all, and, despite the closure and
      sale of the company, faced no individual financial liability whatsoever for the
      gross abuse of animals at their facility.
      This all changed last week. After more than a year of waiting, The HSUS’s
      False Claims Act against the owners of Hallmark/Westland was finally unsealed,
      and is now moving forward in federal court in Los Angeles.
      What’s more, last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it
      has elected to intervene in the case and join The HSUS in seeking to hold the
      owners of this now infamous operation accountable. The Department of Justice
      intervenes in less than 25 percent of all Qui Tam actions, and this is the first
      time the powerful statute has ever been deployed against the mistreatment of
      farm animals.
      It is difficult to overstate the importance of this statutory hammer for
      securing treble damages against slaughterhouse operators like Hallmark/Westland
      who routinely ignore the humane handling requirements of their federal
      contracts. With virtually no state or federal humane law enforcement for farm
      animals, factory farmers have had little to fear when their actions have
      resulted in appalling abuses of animals.
      That all could change with the precedent set in this case. The risk of
      personal liability for treble damages—coupled with the promise of multi-million
      dollar bounties for workers that blow the whistle on animal abuse—could serve as
      a powerful deterrent for slaughterhouse owners operating in an area with
      woefully insufficient federal humane law enforcement.
      The meat industry should take notice that if they defraud the American
      taxpayers by abusing animals, there will be serious consequences. And the
      Department of Justice should be commended for joining The HSUS in seeking to
      ensure that unscrupulous federal meat suppliers do not profit from the gross and
      systematic mistreatment of animals in violation of federal law.

      Posted by Wayne Pacelle on 07 May 2009

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