Yesterday, Compassion Over Killing, represented by Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), finalized a settlement and court order resolving a lawsuit alleging widespread 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. We argued the evidence documented in COK’s 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.”
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.
COK’s evidence was immediately turned over to local humane law enforcement, which conducted a follow-up investigation that found even more animal abuse and also resulted in the impoundment of 88 hatchlings. As a result of the lawsuit, COK and ALDF have obtained detailed reports of this follow-up investigation, which conclude with a recommendation that the District Attorney file criminal charges for animal cruelty, an action they declined to take. The defendants still deny any liability or responsibility in the matter.
This groundbreaking case paves a new way to seek—and achieve—justice for abused farmed animals. While our work is never done, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this definitively ensures the end of animal suffering at this factory farm.
Please continue to spread the truth about how meat, milk, and eggs are produced, choose compassion, and make a donation to support our work to help end the suffering of animals on factory farms and build a kinder world for all of us.
Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary, rescued ducklings from Cal-Cruz Hatcheries.