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Year after blackout, public still in the dark about animal welfare enforcement

DELCIANNA J. WINDERS: ‘It’s now been a year since the #USDAblackout—the sudden deletion of thousands of animal welfare-related records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website with no warning and virtually no explanation. Despite swift and massive outcry from all corners—including Congress, the media, the public, animal protection organizations, and even industry—we’re still in the dark about how the USDA is enforcing our nation’s most important animal protection law—or if it even is enforcing that law…

This doesn’t even account for the fact that most violators don’t face any fines. Instead, the USDA’s primary means of “enforcing” the AWA is through warnings that have no repercussions whatsoever. In 2017 more than 90 percent of all AWA “enforcement actions” were mere warnings. Unsurprisingly, violators continue to break the law—all too often with impunity. When an agency is falling down on the job assigned to it by Congress, it must be held accountable…

For years, the public was able to monitor how the USDA was—and was not—enforcing the AWA. Each month, the USDA would post its AWA enforcement actions online. If the USDA wasn’t willing to take meaningful enforcement action, at least the public could keep an eye on which businesses had faced scrutiny and had been warned by the agency and could decide who to support with their pocketbooks’. SOURCE…

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