I’ll always remember the images of sickly cows, caked in manure, being dragged around in chains at the Chino-based slaughterhouse. It was this series of disturbing images captured on video in 2008 by an undercover investigator posing as a plant employee that would lead to the largest beef recall in U.S. history.
In the video, workers at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino are seen ramming “downed” cows that are too sick to walk with the blades of a forklift. At one point, a worker can be seen jabbing a cow in the eye with a baton, while another worker blasts water up the nose of another cow with a powerful hose—all in an attempt to force the injured animals back onto their feet and off to the slaughter.
Simply put, had it not been for this undercover operation by the Humane Society of the United States, the inhumane treatment of these animals may have never been brought to the public’s attention. Make no mistake: It is because of this raw footage that our office was able to wage a successful prosecution against the perpetrators in this case.
What made this case equally disturbing, beyond the obvious physical abuse and torture, was the fact that Westland/Hallmark was also a supplier of meats for the National School Lunch Program. Of the 143 million pounds of beef that were eventually recalled, 50 million pounds had actually gone to school lunch programs or other federal programs aiding the poor or elderly.
While testifying before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the president of the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, admitted that sick “downer” cows had been introduced into the food supply. This is a significant admission because “downer” cows pose the threat of spreading mad cow disease to humans which is a violation of the law.
On February 15, 2008, I held a press conference with President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, to announce the filing of charges in the Hallmark Meat Packing Case
At the time, this case had focused the national spotlight on San Bernardino County. I wanted the public to understand that my office takes all cases involving animal cruelty very seriously. It doesn’t matter whether the mistreated animal is a beloved family pet or a cow at a slaughterhouse. Unnecessary cruelty will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law.
San Bernardino County District Attorney