I love all animals, not just elephants, so I must dedicate a post to this terrible news.
I was horrified that the USDA removed animal welfare records from its website this past week.
What did the animal welfare site report?
You could look up a breeder to see if conditions were humane, and you could make an informed decision on that dog or horse you were hoping to purchase.
You could look up a lab to see a census of the animals they studied, and how they were handled. Was your local university wisely spending research money? Was the lab giving animals like chimpanzees adequate space, adequate food, and adequate care?
You could find a corporation and read reports about animal testing. You could read reports about zoo animals, circus animals, and learn how animals were transported.
USDA inspectors wrote detailed reports about sites they visited, noting violations that often made the companies/labs/zoos/breeders make positive changes.
Overall, 1200 research labs were included on the site, many which use your taxpayer dollars. Over 7000 facilities keeping animals had reports open to the public.
Why was the site removed?
According to Science Magazine, “The agency said in a statement that it revoked public access to the reports ‘based on our commitment to being transparent … and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.'”
This sounds like a terrible excuse.
OK, so why was the site really removed?
Blame the lobbyists working for “Big Ag” – i.e. huge agriculture firms that could care less about animal welfare and/or human safety and focus solely on massive profits. An explanation from Science Magazine:
“The Trump administration hired Brian Klippenstein to lead the USDA transition team. Klippenstein is the executive director of Protect the Harvest, a Columbia, Missouri–based pro-agriculture group that has supported Right to Farm bills, which protect the agriculture industry from certain lawsuits and regulations, including those involving animal welfare. The group has also opposed restrictions on large-scale dog breeding operations—sometimes referred to as “puppy mills”– which are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. USDA’s decision to remove documents relating to violations of both the Horse Protection Act and Animal Welfare Act would be consistent with Protect the Harvest’s policy goals.”
Why should I care?
If you care about animals, you should care.
If you don’t like animals, you should still care – how we treat animals offers a window into how we treat human beings. If regulations can be swept aside for animal welfare, you better believe regulations will be swept aside for human health and safety too.
What can I do?
First, take heart that the USDA says the decision is not yet final. There is still a little time to make your voice heard.
Second, be happy that usual adversaries are coming together to protest. After all, research labs (often highly distrusted by animal rights groups) also like to have this information easily accessible – they use the reports to find scientific trends, as well as make their case to the public as to why animal research may be beneficial.
But, we can’t depend solely on animal rights organizations, the Humane Society, labs, or zoos to petition the USDA. Citizens need to speak out too.
1. Leave feedback on the USDA website
2. Write and call the USDA
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
3. Social media users should post comments and animal photos with #noUSDAblackout
4. Notify your senators and congress people and urge them to speak out.
5. Support organizations like the Humane Society.
In the meantime, how do I get animal welfare reports?
You would have to file a formal request through the Freedom of Information Act, which can take months to be approved.
Photos: my beloved dog, my local zoo, and at a local horse rescue organization where I volunteer every year from April to October