As many animal welfare advocates suspected, it appears that politics and profiteering may be behind the USDA’s mysterious rub-and-scrub of the public database of commercial animal abuse. Now, in what appears a feeble attempt to quiet the public storm created by animal advocates, journalists, nonprofit watchdog organizations, researchers, protection groups, attorneys and others, the USDA has re-uploaded a tiny portion of the animal welfare database–a portion, incidentally, that excludes thousands of inspection reports on puppy mills, private research facilities, zoos, and other institutions that profit from the use of animals.
Following public outcry, the U.S. government reposts a fraction of animal welfare data. Meanwhile, clues point to the reasons behind the radical deletions.
In early February the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purged all animal welfare records from its website, preventing the public from easily seeing reports of mistreatment of animals at facilities nationwide. Now, after weeks of fierce criticism from lawmakers, activists, and the public, the agency has put a small fraction of the cache back online.
The USDA has been tight-lipped about why it removed the database, except to say that privacy concerns prompted its decision. The agency has been just as opaque about the reasons for reinstating some records.
The restored records represent a minuscule portion of the 17-year database, and they exclude thousands of inspection reports on puppy mills, private research facilities, and zoos that constitute the public record of commercial animal abuse. Since February 3, those reports have been accessible only by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, a byzantine process that can take months or even years…
Much remains unclear about the database’s status and future, but here’s what we know—and what we’re still in the dark about…