Immediately upon assuming office, the Trump administration directed the US Department of Agriculture to take down the extensive records of its publicly funded investigations of animal cruelty in America; now, Americans can only access their own data by paying for expensive, unweildy, and slow Freedom of Information Act requests to the USDA.
The agency claims it removed the records to protect the privacy of the persons named in them, but the records had always been redacted for this purpose prior to their publication on the USDA website.
Animal-rights groups are suing the USDA to reverse the policy and restore the records. Previously, the records have served as a critical source for investigative journalists who documents gruesome cruelty at zoos, labs, and in agribusiness.
The burden of making public a trove of information on animal welfare—how animals are suffering nationwide, who the perpetrators are, and where there may be holes in current legislation—now largely falls to third parties. Mother Jones’s West, whose story about the roadside zoo relied heavily on the USDA APHIS database, points out how cumbersome a task this will be for nonprofit watchdog organizations: “They're cash-strapped and overworked, and it shouldn't be their responsibility to be the reservoir of public information. It’s the government’s role.”
AZA’s Dan Ashe sees the USDA’s actions as a blow to accountability. If these records aren’t made readily available, “you can only really reach one conclusion, and that is that the public's ability to hold these institutions accountable will be diminished.”
Born Free’s Roberts agrees.
“Transparency is vital to democracy, and the USDA should reverse course and reopen access to information online,” he says. “I assume they will—unless they have something to hide.”
U.S. Animal Abuse Records Deleted—What We Stand to Lose [Natasha Daly/National Geographic]
(Image: Gestation crates, Farm Sanctuary, CC-BY)
In 2014, the Alice decision made it much harder to patent software in the USA; in 2016, Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act, creating the first federal trade secrets statute: the result of these two developments is that software companies aggressively switched from patents to trade secrets as a means of controlling competition and […]
Trump is notorious for his "filing system": when he is finished with a piece of paper, he tears it into tiny pieces and throws it away, which is fine if you're a CEO (maybe), but is radioactively illegal under the Presidential Records Act, because the President works for the public, and is required by law […]
Every crappy thing in the world is beta-tested on people who have little or no power, perfected, and brought to the rest of us -- CCTV starts with prisoners, moves to mental institutions, then to schools, then to blue-collar workplaces, then airports, then white-collar workplaces, then everywhere.
Projects big and small always go smoother when the whole team is collaborating, but members tend to get lost once the conference call ends. Timelinr is a project management solution that helps keep your stakeholders, team, and clients in the loop with high-level project roadmaps and granular task boards. Subscriptions are available today for $49.99. […]
The Adobe Creative Cloud is home to a suite of editing tools today’s creatives count on to produce their content. Whether you’re an aspiring photographer, animator, or graphic designer, Adobe’s programs can help you in your creative pursuits, and with the Complete Adobe CC Training Bundle, you can come to grips with six of them for […]
Your pet might be photogenic, but getting them to stare long enough at your camera to snap that Instagram-worthy photo isn’t as simple as telling them to sit. Bribing your pets with their favorite treat, however, might just do the trick, and with the Adjustable Pet Selfie Smartphone Attachment, you can do just that while getting […]