USDA Deletes Animal Welfare And Abuse Records

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 07, 2017 01:11 AM EST

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has quietly scrubbed all animal welfare and animal abuse records from its website. The move has earned the agency a barrage of criticism from animal welfare and transparency activists remind them that the public has the right to know how their tax dollars are being used. The agency is responsible for ensuring the humane treatment of large animals used in research such as primates and goats.

The agency explains that the decision was made in the spirit of “commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals”, the agency stated in its website. Moreover, the records can still be viewed in redacted form if requested through the freedom-of-information requests. But the move makes the critics think that the privacy argument is not a good enough reason.

According to Justin Goodman, director of the non-profit White Coat Waste Project in Washington DC, and a fierce opponent of animal research, the USDA have routinely redacted names of individuals from the public reports anyway. “Claiming ‘privacy’ is a smokescreen to unjustifiably evade critical transparency about government operations,” he adds. According to the Scientific American, welfare groups were surprised by the abrupt disappearance of information.

Recently, the agency is receiving an outpouring of anger and mistrust as their website blacked out inspection reports on some 9,000 licensed facilities that use animals. Included are records on commercial dog breeding operators, walking horse show participants, roadside zoos, animal research labs, which are regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. Now, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the first to take a step to challenge the agency's action, The Huffington Post reports.

HSUS have taken legal action to bar the agency's latest treatment of animal records. After suing the agency in 2005, HSUS is reminding the department that its actions violate the plain terms of the settlement. In addition, the USDA is also clearly violating the congressional provisions in 1996 and 2016 that increase transparency and electronic access to information, the HSUS says.

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