My Facebook timeline was aflutter last week with news that the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) had removed from its website information concerning the administration of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. In normal people language, the government agency has removed public access to reports that document violations of these two laws. People who want to know if a particular dog breeder, laboratory, exotic animal exhibitor, etc. have ever violated (or repeatedly violated) the Animal Welfare Act will need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request instead of logging into a database and doing a quick search.
Here's a pretty thorough summary of the situation, with comments from a variety of views.
And here's a link to the USDA-APHIS statement (straight from the horse's mouth...I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself).
It is important to note a few things:
The process that led to the reports’ removal was started more than a year ago and, according to the USDA’s statement, is not tied to the new Administration.
Removal may be tied to a current lawsuit and the USDA may be looking for ways to stave off this and future litigation and to protect the privacy of those who argue they are not guilty of animal welfare violations.
USDA policies and enforcements are not always in animals’ best interest. Animal well-being is not the agencies primary concern. The very existence of the horrific Meat Animal Research Center attests to that.
I understand the need for the USDA to ensure they don’t unjustly violate someone’s privacy. But I think that individuals and entities that have failed to provide proper care for animals ought to be held publicly accountable for those actions. I think that people who are trying to make more compassionate choices about how they spend their consumer dollars ought to have access to information that will allow them to make that choice. And I think that when big industries receive the benefit of government shields, animals and other vulnerable creatures suffer as a result.
What do you think?