(Reuters) — Several California companies and individuals tied to the largest beef recall in U.S. history have settled charges of animal cruelty and the slaughtering of sick cattle for food, including beef supplied to a national school lunch program.
The settlements end a federal fraud lawsuit begun in February 2008 by the Humane Society of the United States, which obtained a video that appeared to show inhumane cattle treatment and improper inspections of sick cattle at a plant in Chino, Calif., run by Westland Meat Co. and Hallmark Meat Co.
Under the settlements, Westland agreed to enter a $155.68 million consent judgment, which its lawyer said is unlikely to be collected be-cause the company is defunct, while its owner, Steve Mendell, agreed to pay $240,000.
The government also said M&M Management LLC, Cattleman’s Choice Inc., the estate of Cattleman’s late owner, Aaron “Arnie” Magidow, and Magidow’s widow, JoAnn, will pay $2.45 million. JoAnn Magidow was not accused of wrongdoing.
Two other defendants, Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr., settled in October 2012 for $304,130.
According to the lawsuit, Westland/Hallmark treated cattle inhumanely and falsely represented that it processed meat only from ambulatory cattle, when it also used “downer” cattle that can walk only with help. Such cattle are considered a greater risk to spread illness.
Mark Troy, a partner at the law firm Crowell & Moring representing Westland, Mendell and M&M, said federal meat inspectors “had been on site 100 percent of the time and inspected every single cow,” but the government blamed Westland because workers had been caught on the video mistreating cows.