LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A $500 million settlement was reached Friday in an animal abuse case at a Southland slaughterhouse that led to one of the biggest meat recalls in U.S. history.

The Humane Society of the U.S. agreed to the settlement with the owners of the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company in what is the largest-ever penalty for an animal abuse case.

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Workers at the Chino-based slaughterhouse were caught on videotape in 2008 dragging sick and injured cows around in chains and using forklifts to keep them upright.

Jon Lovvorn, chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The Humane Society, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the key to the case was the video footage shot by an undercover operative.

“This is a facility that was caught on tape kicking, beating, running over animals with bulldozers, and doing all manners of cruel and horrific acts in the processing of meat into hamburgers,” Lovvorn said.

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Westland/Hallmark was a supplier of meats for the national school lunch program before the abuse allegations led to prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The legal victory, however, is largely symbolic after Westland/Hallmark went bankrupt in 2008 after the fallout from the video sparked a massive ground beef recall.

Still, Lovvern said the judgment will have an immediate effect on the industry and its practices.

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“The judgment…is a deterrence judgment,” said Lovvern. “It’s a strong signal that if you abuse animals when you have government contracts that require humane treatment, you’re gonna pay the price economically.”