LOS ANGELES—The federal government said Friday it is suing a Southern California slaughterhouse whose workers were caught on videotape abusing cattle, leading to the nation's biggest beef recall last year. The Department of Justice is intervening in the Humane Society of the United States' lawsuit against Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. The federal lawsuit seeks $150 million in taxpayer money awarded to the company during a five-year period.
The lawsuit claims the slaughterhouse, at one time the second largest supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program, fraudulently claimed that all cattle slaughtered at the plant were handled humanely and that no meat from so-called "downer" cows entered the food supply.
However, undercover video released by the Humane Society showed workers dragging cows too sick or injured to stand with chains, shocking them with electric prods and shooting streams of water in their faces. The video led to the February 2008 recall of 143 million pounds of beef out of fear downer cattle, which pose a greater risk of illnesses such as mad cow disease, entered the food supply.