As of Friday morning, the USDA had removed information relating to the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act from its site.
This includes animal welfare inspections and records about the enforcement of these laws. They’ve even removed lists of regulated facilities, all without any advance notice.
The department is claiming that this is about privacy. However, the reports already remove the locations of facilities, and other sensitive information could easily been redacted so that the reports would otherwise still be accessible to the public.
This move appears to be motivated by a desire to keep animal abusers shielded from public scrutiny.
According to The New York Times:
The information is used by advocacy groups and other members of the public to look up information on commercial dog and horse breeders, some of whom have had a history of abuse. The reports included lists of animal welfare violations at those facilities and also at animal testing labs, and whether those violations have been corrected.
The USDA is also claiming that the information will still be available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. What they fail to mention is that it undoubtedly makes these reports much harder to access since these requests can be costly and take months or years to fulfill.
And while the Animal Welfare Act specifically excludes farmed animals from protection, this move by the USDA shields animal abusing industries from public view.
Right now, the USDA site still includes important information, including the number of animals slaughtered, but this new development is a slippery slope, and it could just be a matter of time before the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act records are removed as well.
MFA will continue to fight for transparency in food production through our undercover investigations and legal work.
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