“I need the public to understand that my office takes all cases involving animal cruelty very seriously . . . [and i]t 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 Michael A. Ramos (February 15, 2008) One morning in January 2008, images of horrific animal cruelty were blasted by Internet, television, and print media throughout the country. The story was all the more shocking in that the animals at issue were cows at a commercial slaughter plant—a place from which Americans usually avert their gaze. The images of dairy cows so ill or injured that they could not stand, being battered, shocked, and nearly drowned to force them into the kill box, struck a chord with the American public. Abusing downed animals is at odds with our venerable national public policy against torturing animals. The reaction was swift and far-reaching. The Hallmark Meat Packing plant was closed indefinitely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) initiated the largest meat recall in U.S. history, and two of the plant’s employees were arrested and charged with animal cruelty. The case at the Hallmark plant is remarkable—both for the degree of cruelty and sadism recorded, as well as the vigor of the response to such cruelty by the public, the media, and state and federal officials. The case also reflects a changing trend in the United States. The American public is no longer averting its gaze when it comes to farm animal cruelty. In fact, U.S. consumers and policy makers are taking a long-overdue, hard look at the way we treat animals raised for food, and the moral and practical consequences of the abusive industrial farming system that has developed over the last fifty years. As discussed herein, Hallmark may or may not turn out to be a turning point in the humane movement, but it certainly provides an illuminating case study of how the regulatory system addresses farm animal treatment and the limits and loopholes that need to be remedied at both the state and federal levels.
Nancy Perry & Peter Brandt,
A Case Study on Cruelty to Farm Animals: Lessons Learned From the Hallmark Meat Packing Case,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol106/iss1/7