How to Combat the USDA's Animal Welfare Blackout
The government just made it nearly impossible to track the abuse of millions of animals used in laboratories each year. VegNews speaks to Beagle Freedom Project founder Shannon Keith to find out what we can do to weather the blow.
On February 3, 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), removed all records of animals used in laboratories—including information related to instances of abuse—from its website. This action has devastating implications for animals and greatly impedes the ability of advocates to hold animal abusers accountable for their actions. Farmed animals were not accounted for in these records as the USDA is not required to track abuse within the animal agriculture industry.
Several animal-rights organizations have already taken action. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took immediate action to reinstall the inspection reports removed from about 9,000 facilities—including zoos, laboratories, dog breeders, horse show organizers, amongst others—that use animals. HSUS filed a notice of violation of a standing agreement the organization made with the USDA in 2009 to make these types of records public. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is also fighting back by re-publishing lost records on its own site. PETA also launched a petition to reinstate animal welfare records on the USDA site so that activists can continue to do their work for the betterment of exploited animals.
VegNews spoke with Shannon Keith, the president and founder of animal-rights organization Beagle Freedom Project, which has rescued countless dogs and other animals from laboratories since 2010. Keith knows first-hand the atrocities that occur within labs, particularly those that use beagles—an extremely trusting breed that makes up 96% of dogs used for experiments. “Throughout the course of history, atrocities have occurred because people did not stand up for what they believed in,” Keith tells VegNews. “I am proud to see fellow Americans taking a stand for what they believe in lately.” While beagles are only a portion of the millions of animals abused in labs every year, VegNews chats with Keith to gain some perspective about what to do next.
VegNews: What does the action of removing welfare information from the USDA site mean for animals?
Shannon Keith: Information that was posted on the USDA/APHIS website not only included how many animals, of what species and breed were being used and where, but it also contained information regarding any animal welfare violations that institution may have had. Since government oversight of animals in labs is sadly scarce, it has been up to the public to keep tabs on these facilities and inquire further to make sure animals are being treated humanely. Without public oversight, or even basic knowledge of animals in labs, the animals’ voices are now even more silent than ever. They are essentially blacked-out. It is as if they do not exist. Now more than ever, facilities can do what they want to these animals without fear of reproach or punishment. They can break federal law and nobody would ever know. The animals will be able to suffer in silence—even more than they already have been for so long.
VN: Why is it important for the government to provide information about animals used in laboratories?
SK: It is critical for the government to provide information about animals used in laboratories in order to provide a basic modicum of transparency. A majority of animals used for experimentation are in taxpayer-funded institutions, which means that your taxpayer dollars go towards funding research you may not agree with. As a taxpayer, you have the right to know where your money is being spent, and you have a right to challenge it. With this sudden blackout of information about animals in laboratories, the public no longer has access to thousands upon thousands of records. This means, as a citizen, you not only do not know where your money is being spent, but you will have a very difficult time challenging it.
VN: What can activists do to mitigate the damage caused by this action?
SK: There are many things activists can do to challenge this action:
1. Make your voice heard! Contact your representatives and tell them to take action on this. Call them, write them, and email them!
2. Register your opinion on the White House page.
3. Sign our petition.
4. Join Beagle Freedom Project! We need your support now than ever to fight this. Donate, volunteer, and get involved!
“With silence comes complicity,” Keith says. “Don’t be silent. Let Trump and your legislators know animals have rights.”
10 Reasons New Vegan Documentary The Game Changers Will Literally Change Every Game
One part What the Health and ten parts of the most inspiring fitness routine you've ever seen, this new film—executively produced by James Cameron—will have you sweating in your seat.
Read More »
25 Accidentally Vegan Snacks You Can Find at Virtually Any Convenience Store
Forget the quinoa, and pass the Sour Patch Kids.
Read More »
14 Ways to Step Up Your Vegan Popcorn Game
Whether you prefer savory or sweet, weve got something for everyone on this list of snack-worthy recipes to celebrate National Popcorn Day.
Read More »
In 2018, Being Vegan Also Means Being a Recycler
Recycling saves the planet (and its inhabitants) and is great for tight budgets.
Read More »
Well, That Was Quick. 7 Ways Were Breaking Our 2018 Resolutions with the New Vegan Ben & Jerrys Flavors
The debut of the new flavors from this iconic ice cream brand have us dreaming of all the ways we plan on eating them.
Read More »
- How a Vegan Celebrity Chef Became One of Biggest Influencers in Atlanta
- 4 Vegan Athletes Who Think You Need to Join the #PlantMilkChallenge
- From 6 Months to Live to a New Lease On Life: Veganism Saved Her Life
- If Your Baby Could Talk, They Would Tell You They Really Want Vegan Diaper Ointments
- If Going Vegan is Your Resolution This Year, Read This
- 2018 is the Year of the Vegan Wine and Cheese Pairings
- How a Vegan Restaurateur Balances Work and a Hunter Husband
- You Are Only 6 Steps Away from Your Best Vegan Year Ever
- Everything You Need to Know About Milk Substitutes
- Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams' Enforced Policy Literally Saved His Life
- Frick 2017! Heres What VegNews Editors Plan to Do in 2018 …
- Want to Lower Your Blood Pressure? Go Vegan!
- Are Your Sweeteners as Vegan and Ethical as You Are?
- Is So-Called Clean Meat Vegan? Paul Shapiro Has the Answer
- The VegNews Vegan Starter Kit
- The 12 Best Vegan Desserts of All Time at Trader Joes
- Winter Doesnt Stand a Chance Thanks to These 5 Vegan Skin Products
- Why Jackie Day Should Be Your New Vegan BFF
- 9 Vegan Startups You Need to Know About in 2018
- 2018 is the Year Your Skin Goes Vegan, Too