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Guilty Pleas to Hallmark Cruelty

24 June 2008

US - The man behind the infamous Hallmark downed animal incident has pleaded guilty to to two counts of felony animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to downed animals.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos charged Daniel Navarro with animal cruelty in the aftermath of shocking disclosures from an undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States.

In the plea deal accepted today, Navarro was convicted of two felony counts of animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully moving a downed animal. Navarro faces sentencing on August 25, 2008, which includes mandatory counseling, probation for three years which includes a prohibition on contact with animals, and the possibility of jail time.

The conviction marks a milestone because animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk in the United States are normally denied — either because of legal loopholes, cultural disregard or by virtue of being kept out of public sight — the most basic protections afforded other animals.

Hallmark principally slaughtered "spent" dairy cows for the Westland Meat Co., which was the nation's No. 2 supplier of ground beef for the National School Lunch Program. Many of these animals were unable to stand and walk. An HSUS investigator filmed slaughter plant employees routinely beating cows to try to make them rise. Cows were repeatedly shocked in the face and eyes with electric prods, and even rammed with the blades of a forklift. This abuse was inflicted on these feeble animals in efforts to make them lumber to their feet just long enough to be slaughtered — this, despite the known risks that such animals may be harboring foodborne pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella, or even infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease").

The HSUS conducted its six-week undercover investigation at the federally-inspected slaughterhouse facility during the fall of 2007, and HSUS attorneys worked closely with the District Attorneys' Office to help secure the conviction.

Evidence of cruelty provided on The HSUS videotape included:

  • Cows struck repeated in the face and eyes when they are plainly unable to stand.
  • Non-ambulatory cows rammed and dropped with a mechanical forklift in attempts to force them to their feet.
  • Helpless animals unable to stand are dragged across ridged concrete at the end of a chain.
  • A cow forced to endure simulated drowning in an attempt to make her rise. A high-pressure hose is used to force water down the mouth and nose of a non-ambulatory cow for several minutes, while an employee shouts: "Up or die."

As a result of The HSUS investigation, the nation's largest-ever meat recall was initiated. On May 20, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that he would ban any downer cattle in the food supply, closing a loophole that The HSUS investigation exposed.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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