U.S. Department of Agriculture blacks out animal welfare reports

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[This is Gary Grady, Tom’s brother, posting something that Tom would have wanted his readers to know about. This article is cross-posted from my own blog here.]

The United States Department of Agriculture has ended a longstanding practice of making animal welfare reports available on its website. Previously tens of thousands of reports could be read online concerning treatment of animals at nearly 8000 facilities, including about 1200 research laboratories as well as zoos, circuses, and various commercial enterprises. The reports have to do mainly with large mammals covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.

This is according to articles published in both Science and Nature, the two largest-circulation general science journals.

The USDA’s statement says that the change is intended to protect personal information. But personal information is in fact routinely redacted from these reports, and the reports are still available through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The article in Science says in part,

Inspection reports contain little, if any, personal information about individuals.

Public access to the reports has led to scores of media reports like this article in The Boston Globe in 2012 documenting problems at Harvard University’s primate research facility; the university later closed the trouble-prone New England Primate Research Center. Similarly, the reports allowed Nature and The New Yorker to report on the chronic abuse of goats held at the private company Santa Cruz Biotechnology in California, once the world’s second largest marketer of research antibodies. Several months after the Nature report, USDA in a rare move revoked the company’s license to market the antibodies.

“[These are] basic data about animal use and compliance that taxpayers have a right to access, particularly when it comes to taxpayer-funded labs,” says Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, a Washington, D.C.–based group that opposes taxpayer-funded animal experiments.

The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement: “This action benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know.”

And Nature similarly reports,

The disappearance of information caught animal-welfare groups by surprise. “I’m just flabbergasted,” says Eric Kleiman, a research consultant at the Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group in Washington DC. “This is not only the opposite of transparency, it takes us back to the Stone Age.”


Getting such information through FOIA requests can take years, Klein says. And knowing what information to request will be difficult, as the USDA will no longer post complaints that it or outside groups file against an institution. These complaints often trigger USDA investigations.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

All nations should ban unjustified animal testing

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I realize there have been reports of strides made in both human and veterinary medicine, as a result of laboratory testing on animals.

But we know for sure that in too many case animals have been abused – within the tests where the reported strides have been made and in completely unnecessary experiments.

My fear for a long time has been that some testing is going on where either all possible results were uncovered long ago and/or the only justification for continuing the studies is merely to keep the lab open.

A recent Reuters news story supports these fears. A group of US Congressmen are challenging research being conducted on monkeys at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facility in Poolesville, Md.

The article notes macaques are being bred to study maternal deprivation, as some are “reportedly subjected to fear, stress, and pain-inducing tests.” This study has been going on for 30 years.

A letter was sent the NIH director that included the statement – “prominent experts . . . have raised questions about the scientific and ethical justification of these particular experiments.”

Yes, 30 years is far too long to be abusing monkeys in this way. If the researchers involved have not seen the results they’re looking for, they long ago stretched beyond the scope of their individual capabilities. We need to study human cases and help those humans who are suffering directly. I feel what the facility is doing is misguided and counterproductive to directly helping people in need.

Mental health issues have a reached a crisis point in the United States. We need people looking for real solutions.

No true scientist would be involved in any animal experimentation where the health and welfare of the animals is not being properly taken into account or where unnecessary experiments are being conducted. Anyone found to be engaged in activity counter to these guidelines should have their license to conduct research pulled and should face prosecution for animal cruelty.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

HSUS leader Wayne Pacelle reviews results for 2014

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In his A Humane Nation blog this week, Humane Society of the United States leader Wayne Pacelle reviewed the organization’s “Top Transformational Results of 2014.”

The list features:

South Dakota becoming the 5oth US state to adopt a felony animal-cruelty law.

It is now a federal crime to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

The truly idiotic and evil “King Amendment” was tossed out of the Farm Bill.

A federal appellate court rightfully overturned a horrible ruling from a lower that might have tossed out the animal crush video law. If I recall, the lower court tried to claim that torturing and brutally killing animals was protected free speech. That’s one for the Moronic Court Ruling Hall of Fame.

So arguably the current leader for the Moronic Court Ruling Hall of Fame is Citizens United.

A number of countries have agreed to end the use of gestation crates for pigs.

Three horse-slaughter plants were blocked from opening this year.

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule blocks the importation of puppies for sale. This means at least foreign puppy mills can’t sell here.

Internet sellers of puppy now have to follow USDA guidelines. The HSUS helped to block a legal challenge to this ruling.

Better protections are in place for animals suffering through experiments in labs.

The World Trade Organization is thankfully supporting European Union’s ban on products resulting from the horrific Canadian seal hunts.

The wolf hunts were stopped in Michigan.

New York and New Jersey became the first states to banned the sale of Ivory. This one should become a federal ban.

And Pacelle states the “…  International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling’s ban on commercial hunting.”

Read Pacelle’s full rundown at the link above.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

Cosmetic animal-testing ban goes into effect in European Union

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The ban on the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals is now the law of the land in the European Union. This ban should be imposed everywhere.

What some laboratories are doing to animals is criminal. If someone in the United States, for example, was caught pouring burning chemicals into the eyes of bunnies, they would be jailed for animal cruelty. (Okay the sentence would be light, but at least it’s against the law.)

But somehow, these repetitive acts of cruelty – in so many cases where the results are already well known or where alternative, technology-based test can be performed – are deemed legal.


2,500 beagles rescued from Italian breeder that supplies to research facilities

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The debate on the use of animals in research should be ramped up by the news Thursday out of Italy, where 2,500 beagles were rescued from breeding operation.

An article by Nature published last week reports a court ruled the allegations of mistreatment of the dogs warranted investigation and apparently the removal of the dogs. The dogs are going to foster homes while the investigation continues.

The main article did not report on the conditions of the dogs, but an update notes – “The court said it was concerned that some puppies came down with diarrhoea and respiratory conditions. Andy Smith, vice-president of Marshall Biosciences which owns Green Hill, says the conditions occurred when the company was banned from caring for the animals.”

Why would the facility be banned from caring for the animals? This sounds like the typical spin from a puppy mill breeder.

An article from Opposing Views asks the question – Is animal research necessary? And it links to another Nature piece concerning a panel discussion in 2010 at UCLA.

The point is made that animal testing in too many cases fails to predict results for humans and much of it is unnecessary. The other side, of course, claims the successes are enough to allow the research to go on.

I fully understand that some research has resulted in the development of drugs or treatment for humans. But it is clear we need FAR MORE in the way of regulation. Too often, we’re reading about animals suffering horribly in research labs. And as is the case with puppy mills, it seems the exposure of the horrors routinely comes from undercover video or someone who just happens to report the horrors.

The Italian breeding facility was reportedly inspected regularly. Was this like the AKC inspecting kennels?

And what about redundant testing? This has certainly been the case for the cosmetic industry. I know the other side will bring up the notion that testing needs to carry so many case trials before a result might be concluded. But how many times do they need to pour a particular chemical into a rabbit’s eyes before you conclude it’s not a good thing. They’ve been doing this for decades.

I can only conclude that some testing continues long after a conclusion has been reached, merely to keep the facility in operation – to justify its existence. It is long-past time to completely reevaluate animal testing and toss out the aspects where logic concludes it can be banned – and where modern technology offers an alternative. At least we can do this.

And in areas where it might continue, we need extremely stringent regulations and oversight. The treatment and care of the animals should be covered under strict guidelines. And we need for the curtain to be lifted on this research. It needs a lot of sunshine.

Science news for animals and ecosystems

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The BP Gulf Oil Gusher continues to impact the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem.

MSNBC reports the 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant used to break up the giant oil slicks is causing some real problems. A study released Tuesday suggests the dispersant hurt microorganism populations, which impacts the animals up the food chain.

The story also notes dolphins are dying and those still living and were in contact with the oil are being found to have “pulmonary issues, chronic low weight, anemia and low levels of hormones.”

AND – Care2.com posted a headline last week reading – ” ‘Organ Chips’ Could Replace Animal Experiments.”

The amazing goal, one that could help to end suffering for many lab animals, is contained in one important paragraph from the article

“” A $70 million research project that will develop transparent silicon microchips with hollow channels that contain actual living human tissue and pumps to replicate organ function is underway and is predicted to provide faster, cost-effective and more accurate results for testing diseases, toxins and pharmaceuticals – all on something about the size of a flash drive. “”

Pack Topics: Puppy mills; hunting with dogs; animal testing; animal cruelty

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Proposed USDA breeder rules: I ran across another opinion piece about the proposed new USDA rules that would close a huge loophole in breeding regulations. Carole Raphaelle Davis of the LA Animal Rights Examiner discusses the fact that since selling over the Internet, the phone and through the mail are not covered properly by the Animal Welfare Act, these sellers are not regulated the way other breeders are.

The licensed breeders face inspections and fall under basic standards of care, although these standards need to be improve to a large extent.

Violations found at research lab: And speaking of the USDA, inspectors found Animal Welfare Act violations – for the second time – at Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s laboratory. Several goats were found with untreated injuries or other medical conditions.

The Monterey County Herald reports one veterinarian was on staff to care for “10,000 goats and 6,000 rabbits as well as an undetermined number of cattle and horses.” – That’s one vet – as in less than two. Maybe the top officials at the lab can take a pay cut now so that more vets can be hired, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Hunting bears and bobcats with dogs: An effort to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats in California is gaining ground, according to a story posted June 12 on the Daily Democrat website.

And once again, the slippery-slopers are out in force, saying a ban on having dogs run a bear or bobcat to the point of exhaustion so it can be shot at close range, will lead to a ban on all hunting. One hunter in the article is quoted as saying it is more humane that other forms of hunting. Of course, he has no understanding of animal emotion and fails to understand the stress of being chased for miles by a pack of dogs. I guess he would consider that a fun jog in the woods?

Fourteen states have bans in place for hunting bears with dogs and 13 have bans for this practice for bobcats.

Push for better puppy mill regulations in West Virginia: A case in Harrisville, W.Va. involving 30 dogs found abandoned on the side of a road has resulted in renewed calls for better anti-puppy mill regulations. The discussions have centered on the proposed rules to include breeders who sell over the Web, phone and in ads – to be covered under the Animal Welfare Act.

I hope we continue to see this message being spread in every state.

WBOY.com reports the Legislative Action Group of the Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia is one group leading the charge. To me, it is troubling that elected officials have taken so long to get this done, to close this huge loophole in law. This one should have been an unanimous vote in both houses a long time ago.

Puppy store operator charged with animal cruelty: A California puppy store operator has been charged with animal cruelty. NCTimes.com reports this is the third time he has been charged with mistreatment of animals.

Back on March 27,  117 animals were taken during raids on the accused home and from two San Diego pet shops.

Topics: Factory farming, lab animals

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A protest was held Sunday near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. The Philly Dawg blog reports it was part of the National Day of Mourning for Animals in Laboratories.

The writer reports – “” A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report found that employees at Children’s Hospital inaccurately mixed formula for lambs who were languishing likely from lack of nutrition. The lambs had to be euthanized as a result, the report said. “”

The University of Pennsylvania was warned last year by the USDA about the treatment of animals at its lab.

A bill working its way through the US Senate would amend the Egg Products Inspection Act, to modify rules for the housing of hens. It would double the space for hens.

The Dot Earth blog on the New York Times website notes the National Pork Producers Council is saying this bill “would set a dangerous precedent for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices.”

The NPPC is of course WRONG. – The dangerous precedent was set – for animals and consumers – when too many factory farms started abusing animals.

Results released on study of the use of animals in biomedical research

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Links to three articles showed up on the Pack News Wire today concerning the use of animals in lab testing.

The Independent Mail out of Anderson, SC listed the key findings of a recent study, including –

– Animal use is down in research, but government hurdles are high in developing better changes in the system.

– Toxicology (studying poisons) is making breakthroughs in reducing the use of animals.

– .05 percent of animals used in testing are dogs and cats, but that number still equates to more than 90,000 each year.

– 16 states have banned shelters from turning over animals to research labs.

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