The Agriculture Department on Friday began re-posting certain animal welfare documents online after it drew the ire of animal activist groups over its decision to scrub the materials from its website.
The agency said in a statement that is has made public again a “first batch” of data, which included annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports for some federal research facilities. “The reports posted are part of a comprehensive review of the documents the agency removed from its website in early February and are in the same redacted form as before,” the statement said.
The move comes after several leading animal advocacy groups in the country threatened to sue the Agriculture Department after it discontinued a search tool that made inspection records and violations at animal facilities publicly accessible.
After the change, the public could no longer check government records on how animals are treated at about 9,000 zoos, circuses, research laboratories, dog breeding operations and other facilities on the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) page.
“The agency will continue to review records and determine which information is appropriate for reposting,” the Agriculture Department said in its new statement. “APHIS is committed to ensuring the welfare of animals and continues to carry out the critical day-to-day work of ensuring the humane treatment of vulnerable animals through unannounced inspections, pre-compliance visits, horse protection inspections, and other activities.”
Animal activists cheered the decision as a step in the right direction but urged the agency to restore all of the documents that used to be publicly accessible online.
“This is an important turnaround and a good start, but the USDA has a lot more to do here,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Lawmakers, the press, animal advocates, and even the regulated community want transparency and accessible records.”