The U.S. Justice Department has joined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a lawsuit against Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Company, Inc. for defrauding the federal government.
The Humane Society of the United States had filed a qui tam action in federal district court against the two companies following their abusive treatment last year of dairy cows at a slaughterhouse in Chino, California. The abuse came to light through undercover video footage which was released nationwide, causing massive scandal, the largest beef recall in U.S. history, prosecutions of employees involved, and the closure of the slaughterhouse involved.
The meat companies were contracting with the U.S. government to supply meat for the national school lunch program. Their contract required the animals used be handled humanely. Additionally, federal law required (with some loopholes that are now being closed) that downed animals not be entered into the meat supply for human consumption. HSUS’s suit, filed under the False Claims Act (which specifically allows for qui tam suits) claims the two companies defrauded the government by violating the these requirements.
The Justice Department is quoted here as saying: “Our intervention in this case demonstrates how seriously we will pursue allegations such as these.”
The case is filed as: United States of America ex rel. The Humane Society of the United States v. Hallmark Meat Packing Company; Westland Meat Company, Inc.