Compassion Over Killing (COK), represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), finalized a settlement and court order resolving a lawsuit alleging widespread egregious animal abuse and neglect at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries, Inc., a Santa Cruz hatchery that processed millions of birds each year destined for the chicken and duck meat industries. The plaintiff argued the evidence documented in its undercover video of the hatchery constituted unlawful animal cruelty, in violation of the California Business and Professions Code, undermining the integrity of the market. This settlement marks the first time allegations of animal cruelty were successfully resolved using this civil law.
The parties have issued a joint statement clarifying that this settlement resolves "all claims relating to an unfair business practices lawsuit based on alleged animal cruelty at the hatchery." Key points include:
"Cal-Cruz Hatcheries is no longer in operation, closed a few months
ago, and has therefore agreed to no longer own, keep possess, or have
custody of any animal."
Hatchery owner "Brian Collins has agreed that he will not be in any way legally responsible for the welfare of animals in a commercial setting for five years."
"Notwithstanding and as a term of the settlement, Cal-Cruz and Brian Collins expressly deny any liability or responsibility in the matter."
The defendants have also agreed to pay a portion of plaintiff's attorneys' fees, and, according to a court order, Collins is permanently banned from treating animals as depicted in COK's video.
The lawsuit, filed January 11, 2012, was based on an undercover video filmed by a COK investigator working inside the hatchery. The footage revealed horrific abuses including baby birds mutilated on machinery, severely injured hatchlings left to suffer for hours and unwanted chicks sprayed with a high-power hose forcing them into an egg shell disposal chute.
Days after the lawsuit was filed, Whole Foods Market issued a statement that they would no longer purchase chicken from ranches that received hatchlings from Cal-Cruz.
"We are happy knowing our lawsuit definitively ensures no more animals will suffer on this factory farm," says Cheryl Leahy, general counsel at Compassion Over Killing. "Furthermore, this groundbreaking case paves a new way to seek--and achieve--justice for abused farmed animals."
Carter Dillard, ALDF's director of litigation, says, "Let this be a message to factory farmers in California and elsewhere--you are not above the law."