FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Contact: Michael Budkie, SAEN Executive Director 513.575-5517
Attention: Science/Government Desk
Public's Safety at risk, according to 'whistleblower'
complaint against USDA; Watchdog calls for congressional hearings
Washington, DC (January 18, 2005) - The safety of the
public is at risk because the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is not enforcing
federal laws regarding the care and use of animals, according to a
complaint filed with the U.S. Government Office of Special Counsel by a
current USDA inspector.
USDA/APHIS inspector Richard Botelho, Jr. - in a
whistleblower complaint - charges the USDA is guilty of failure to
enforce federal law, dereliction of duty and pork barrel spending. The
OSC complaint also alleges ethics violations by inspectors including
vacations at tax-payer expense and excessive expenditures for equipment
at the USDA.
This latest complaint comes on the heels of
whistleblowers in other branches of the USDA including food inspection.
"Failing to enforce the minimum standards and
regulations of the AWA has harmful risks to the public," said Botelho.
"Animal Care in the eastern region is (also) failing to enforce the
Animal Welfare Act, which is endangering the animals we are responsible
"Mr. Botelho's statement echoes findings by the USDA
Office of Inspector General as well as findings in our own
investigations," said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director of
SAEN, a national research watchdog organization. "We have discovered
that the USDA can't even count animals correctly. These revelations come
as no surprise.”
"We have now contacted the chairs of both the House &
Senate Agriculture committees requesting immediate hearings to
investigate USDA/APHIS/AC," said Budkie. "It is clear this agency avoids
enforcing the law whenever possible. Something needs to change."
Budkie added that his organization has recorded other,
similar complaints by USDA inspectors about major failures in the
organization effecting public health.
SAEN investigations have revealed laboratories that
under-reported primate use by more than 1,000 animals and multiple
violations of the AWA by research institutions but ignored by the USDA.
The full text of Botelho's statement is posted on the
SAEN website at www.saenonline.org as are reports on violations of
federal law by major labs in the U.S.