Target: Michael Young, acting secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Goal: Keep records of animal welfare violations by breeders, labs, and zoos accessible to the public.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made a shocking decision to remove public access to animal welfare inspection reports from its website, a move which could allow laboratories, puppy mills and circuses to abuse animals without fear of public outcry. Without reports documenting violations and whether or not these violations were corrected, it will be harder to put dog breeders, testing facilities, and other groups who work with animals under scrutiny.
The move was made a day after a California congressman proposed a bill which would have fought to curb the numbers of animals used in food and drug testing. Now, because of the Trump administration, should that bill be passed it would be difficult for advocacy groups or the public to see which facilities are complying and which are not. In more sweeping terms, animal welfare advocacy groups will find it far more difficult to uncover acts of abuse, meaning it is very likely that many incidents will go unchecked.
Because of USDA reports, the shameful neglect of monkeys at a primate research facility operated through Harvard University was uncovered in 2012. The facility had allowed numerous monkeys to die of dehydration after not providing them with enough to drink. After this fact came to light, the lab was forced to shut down due to public scorn. It is difficult to say how many similar incidents will now go unchecked for years.
For now, the only way the public will be able to obtain these reports will be through Freedom of Information Act requests, which can take years to process. Sign this petition to tell the Trump USDA that transparency matters, and that the public has the right to know how animals are treated.
Dear Acting Secretary Young,
I am very concerned by the USDA’s decision to remove reports regarding animal welfare from its website. This move would appear to grant protection to organizations and entities who could be causing harm to animals. While done in the name of protecting privacy, it could result in widespread public safety concerns and untold trauma for countless animals held in testing facilities, breeding programs and zoos. Without access to public reports, puppy mills can continue to churn out sickly and under-socialized dogs, and labs can allow animals to die of neglect or torture without fear of public scrutiny. The public availability of reports has been crucial to advocacy groups, but also to individuals who have the right to know about the zoos they visit, the pets they choose to buy, and what has gone into medicines or personal products they use.
I urge you, the USDA, to not place a black box around all organizations who deal with animals. Those who would abuse animals should not feel that they can get a pass. Speaking up for animal welfare is speaking up for the best interests of the people. I urge you to reconsider, and to make these reports publicly accessible online once more.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Gage-Skidmore