U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove all public access to vital animal welfare inspection reports on it's website.
These pages contained crucial information on upwards of 9,000 facilities related to animals protected under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and inspected by the USDA.
These facilities included SeaWorld, dog breeders, puppy mills, zoos, circuses and taxpayer-funded animal testing labs, among others.
This move makes it virtually impossible to find out the location of animals, their treatment and any violations enacted upon them giving carte blanche to anyone to hide animal violations, and violate animal welfare laws at will.
In other words any group who work with animals will now be able to torture, abuse and kill them without fear of public outcry because there will be no public record of their violations.
Before the site's pages were disappeared anyone could use a search tool on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website to look up such information. The general public, as well as animal advocacy groups and journalists, could use the search function to see whether facilities had violated animal welfare regulations.
That is now an impossibility.
When asked why they decided to remove the pages from their website the USDA attributed the change to concerns about privacy. They went on to claim that the decision had come after a year of “comprehensive review" which resulted in the removal of so called "personal information" from documents it posts.
Now the only way the anyone will be able to obtain these reports will be through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which can be expensive and take years to process.
It has come to light that the removal of the information from the USDA website came two days after congress introduced a bill to increase transparency surrounding taxpayer-funded animal testing known as the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act (HR 816). The bill would require labs to disclose how many animals they are using for testing.
This makes the timing of the removal of the information all the more suspicious.