Two employees of Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. are to be charged in a case involving abuse of cattle at the plant. The incident was secretly videotaped last fall by a representative of the Humane Society of the U.S.
District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said Friday that he would be filing five felony counts of cruelty to animals and three misdemeanor counts related to moving a nonambulatory animal with equipment at a slaughterhouse, according to a report by The Sun newspaper of San Bernardino, Calif.
The charges are only the latest crisis for Hallmark/Westland, whose operations were suspended by the USDA in late January after the video was released to the public.
All beef products the company supplied to the National School Lunch Program are on hold while USDA investigators try to determine if any of the beef was processed from downer cattle, which are seen on the videotape being prodded by plant employees and pushed and dragged by a forklift. So far the agency has not found any evidence that beef from downer cattle made it into the program's supplies.
Meanwhile, four Democratic lawmakers are calling for additional investigation into the safety of the meat used in the National School Lunch Program.
Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), along with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), are asking the General Accounting Office to look into the issue, according to a report by the Associated Press.