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DA files criminal charges in slaughterhouse case

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San Bernardino, Calif. - A judge issued warrants last month for two California slaughterhouse workers accused of abusing sick and injured cattle.

San Bernardino, Calif. — A judge issued warrants last month for two California slaughterhouse workers accused of abusing sick and injured cattle.

The charges against 49-year-old Daniel Ugarte Navarro, of Pomona, and Luis Sanchez, 32, of Chino, mark the first time slaughterhouse employees have faced prosecution for alleged crimes of this nature, officials say.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos filed charges last month against Hallmark Meat Packing Co. employees allegedly depicted in undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Footage reportedly shows the workers at the plant of abusing nonambulatory animals in an effort to force them to walk to slaughter.

The video, launched on HSUS' Web site, prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recall 143 million pounds of beef. The case received national attention, inciting reaction from the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Bovine Veterinarians (see related story).

In a Feb. 15 statement, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer praises the district attorney's actions. Ramos charged Navarro, a pen manager, with five felony counts relating to animal cruelty and three misdemeanor charges relating to moving nonambulatory animals with equipment at a slaughterhouse. Sanchez is accused of those same misdemeanor crimes.

Prosecutors are still determining whether to bring charges against the owner and managers of the slaughterhouse and its sister meat-packing plant. Ramos reports he's working with USDA on the case.

"It doesn't matter whether the mistreated animal is a beloved family pet or a cow at a slaughterhouse," he says. "Unnecessary cruelty will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law."

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