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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

The Defender
Vol. 4, No. 2 - Spring 2006

Whose Side is the USDA on?

When laboratory officials are questioned about the humaneness of animal experimentation, one of their most common replies discusses the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and inspections of labs performed by this agency. The USDA is charged with enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) the only piece of legislation which protects animals held by laboratories, dealers, or exhibitors. But the effectiveness of AWA enforcement by the USDA is never discussed. If we are to answer the statements made by the research industry, then we must be able to address AWA enforcement by the USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act is being violated at an increasing rate, and the number of animals potentially injured by these violations is escalating at an even higher rate. During the reporting year ending in September of 2005, the AWA was violated 20,845 times impacting 1,364,358 animals -- a three-year increase of 6384 in violations (up 44%) and 1,040,268 in animals impacted (up 321%). As the violations are increasing, the USDA is doing less and less about it. Fewer enforcement actions are being taken; fines are routinely reduced by 75% or in some cases eliminated entirely.

The USDA routinely promulgates misleading, if not downright dishonest, statistics regarding the use of animals by laboratories, which is not surprising since (according to the USDA Office of the Inspector General) in many instances inspectors do not even bother to count animals in labs when they are inspecting the lab.

Animals used in federally-owned labs (such as the Department of Defense or National Institutes of Health) were included in previous years’ totals, but have been excluded from current national totals giving an artificial appearance of a reduction in overall animal use. This total is even more skewed because animals held for breeding, conditioning, or agricultural research have always been excluded.

The very agency (USDA) charged with enforcing the AWA in non-federal labs, is not required to follow the AWA in their own labs.

The reason these animals are unprotected is because animals used in agricultural research are excluded from protection by this law. Worse yet, from inside information we have found that USDA labs imprison over 50,000 animals (including sheep, pigs, goats and cows) making the USDA, as a whole, one of the largest users of animals in labs.

Clearly, the USDA is not protecting animals adequately whether they are in facilities owned by labs, dealers, or exhibitors. While animals are not counted or included in statistics, violations of the law and animal suffering are increasing with enforcement decreasing, and millions of animals are excluded from any legal protection, the public is left deceived as to the magnitude of animal experimentation, which federal agencies conduct it, and the supposed effectiveness of USDA inspections. One of the prime beneficiaries of this combination of exclusion and secrecy is the USDA itself.

The conclusion that we must reach is that the USDA has far too much of a vested interest in the area of animal experimentation to adequately enforce the AWA with regard to laboratories, and historically, the agency has been too lenient with enforcement at all varieties of facilities. Our considered opinion is that enforcement of this crucial law which impacts public safety as well as the lives of tens of millions of animals should be delegated to an independent entity which is empowered to inspect labs owned by all federal agencies and which is not tied in any way to the performance of animal experimentation.

The USDA has conducted itself as though enforcing the Animal Welfare Act is a much lower priority than protecting laboratories from the intrusive eyes of the tax-paying public. Regulatory enforcement has been replaced by smoke, mirrors, and misinformation.

Important Facts about Federally-Owned Labs:

· These labs are self-regulating, receiving no independent inspections, because the USDA has no jurisdiction over other federal agencies.

· The Veterans Administration operates 47 labs which imprison approximately 13,000 animals.

· The Department of Defense operates over 23 labs, including Brooks Air Force Base where over 40% of the animals are used in painful experiments without anesthesia.

· The USDA operates 15 labs experimenting on over 50,000 animals. The majority of these animals receive no legal protection, whatsoever. One USDA lab in Nebraska uses 35,000 sheep, pigs, and cows annually.

· The Department of the Interior experiments on over 8,500 animals per year, mostly wildlife

Go on to Military Experiments -- The War on Animals
Return to Vol. 4, No. 2 - Spring 2006
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