Historic Settlement after COK Files Federal False Claims Act Lawsuit; Slaughterer Pays and Enters Consent Decree with USDA to Reform Practices
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FROM COK Compassion Over Killing
June 2019

Our False Claims Act case is the first-ever intervention and settlement by the U.S. Department of Justice over humane handling allegations at a ritual slaughter establishment.

rescued Sheep

COK teamed up with Public Justice to file a lawsuit under False Claims Act as a whistleblower following our hidden camera investigation; in a rare move, the Dept of Justice intervened over humane handling allegations.

After COK determined what our investigator caught on hidden camera was horrific cruelty to lambs at Superior Farms, the largest lamb slaughterhouse in the US, we not only exposed these abuses for the world to see in a powerful exclusive New York Times report, we also took legal action to seek justice and demand change.

Our 2017 investigation inside Superior Farms is the first – and only – look inside a US lamb slaughter facility, and our investigator documented what we believe were a variety of humane handling violations, despite the company’s claim to be using slaughter practices in keeping with federal and religious law.

At the time of our investigation, Superior Farms had been awarded numerous contracts from the USDA and Department of Defense to supply both fresh and frozen meat to the federal government for its food assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program. As part of these federal contracts, companies are required to comply with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

The False Claims Act (FCA) allows whistleblowers, such as Compassion Over Killing because we conducted an investigation at the slaughterhouse in this case, to file complaints when there is possible fraud against the government, including evidence alleging violations of government contracts. FCA cases are filed with the Dept. of Justice, which has the option to intervene and get more directly involved in the case.

Our False Claims Act case is the first-ever intervention and settlement by the U.S. Department of Justice over humane handling allegations at a ritual slaughter establishment. As a part of this settlement, Superior Farms parent company Transhumance has entered into a consent decree with USDA involving oversight and reform of several of its practices.

COK determined our undercover video showed:

Violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires that animals a) be rendered insensible to pain before slaughtered, or b) be slaughtered in accordance with religious ritual that prevents the animal from feeling pain during the remainder of the slaughter process (such as kosher or halal methods)
A policy of changing the “best by” date on fresh meat to make it appear fresher than it is. At times the dates were changed by more than two weeks
A repeated failure to comply with its internal policy to run meat through metal detectors to ensure the meat is safe for consumption

The consent decree with USDA mandates that Superior Farms:

  • Within 30 days, must designate a Humane Handling Coordinator with at least two years of experience in livestock slaughter or who has taken instructional courses and training in humane handling and slaughter from a reputable organization. The humane handling coordinator will ensure compliance with humane slaughter law and equipment used to restrain and stun animals have been tested for functionality and that animals are rendered unconscious by a single application
  • Conduct refresher training for its management, supervisors, and employees working in the live animal areas in all aspects of the humane handling and slaughter requirements set forth in the HMSA within 60 days
  • To the extent that it continues to market itself as Halal, Superior Farms must maintain active certification for Halal slaughter from an outside Halal certifying organization

“This case represents a milestone for animal advocates, where a public advocacy organization teamed up with the federal government to set a standard for oversight and enforcement and to promote reform,” said Cheryl Leahy, Executive Vice President at Compassion Over Killing.

“COK pursued this case with the vision that this resolution delivers: real change for the animals at Superior Farms and a message to animal agribusinesses that compliance with humane slaughter law is not optional — they are not free to police themselves, including at ritual slaughter establishments.”

“This settlement sends a loud and clear message to industrial animal ag that consumer rights and animal welfare groups alike will hold it to account when it makes false claims, including leveraging the government where necessary,” said David Muraskin, Senior Food Project Attorney at Public Justice, who represents the whistleblower.

Compassion Over Killing was represented by COK’s Cheryl Leahy as well as Richard Elias of Elias LLC, David Muraskin and Brian Hardingham of Public Justice, and Jennifer Verkamp of Morgan Verkamp.

Kelli L. Taylor of the U.S. Department of Justice was among the government attorneys intervening in the case.


Compassion Over Killing’s courageous investigators work undercover to shine a bright light on the suffering of farm animals kept hidden behind the closed doors of animal agribusiness.

Send a NOTE OF THANKS to our brave investigators!

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