Newsflash – the USDA/APHIS Can’t Count
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS) compiles an annual report called the Animal Welfare Enforcement Report. This report is presented to the Secretary of Agriculture, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Also, it is made available to the public through the USDA/APHIS website. Animal protection activists use this report to evaluate changes in the use of animals, trends in experimentation, sales, and exhibiting of animals.
The 2001 report was posted to the USDA/APHIS website in November, 2002. We began to examine the report immediately. It was obvious that the statistics for the use of primates in experimentation were seriously flawed. The total initially published by USDA/APHIS showed a substantial decrease in the use of primates in experimentation for 2001. But was this true? Were these numbers accurate?
Our analysis of the data contained in this report indicated that it could not possibly contain credible information. Totals for 11 states looked inaccurate.
On November 26th SAEN staff contacted the USDA and spoke to Richard H. Watkins, the author of the USDA/APHIS report. We expressed our skepticism as to the credibility of the statistics that had been published by the USDA/APHIS and requested that he examine his report.
By the next morning, we had received communication from Mr. Watkins confirming our suspicions. The communication included an updated table for the report. The table contained altered statistics, which showed increases in the numbers reported for primate experimental use in no less than 12 states. The underreporting exceeded 5500 primates. In other words, for states where primates were actually used in experimentation, the statistics which the USDA/APHIS had reported to the Secretary of Agriculture, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President of the Senate were wrong over 28% of the time. These changes were the result of initial investigations; other mistakes most likely still exist. Several states show drops in experimentation in the thousands of animals. Either several research facilities ceased to exist, or this report is still seriously flawed.
According to Mr. Watkins, the new USDA table contained data on facilities that had reported late and “ . . . corrections for some problems we had with electronic submissions. ”
We will keep you updated on the outcome of this important report. We will make sure that the truth is reported.
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