On USDA Removal of Animal Welfare Reports
The Nonhuman Rights Project called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture today to immediately restore to its website an important database the public uses to obtain information about where and in what conditions nonhuman animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act are kept. The NhRP also urged Americans to join the fight for nonhuman rights, without which all nonhuman animals will remain legally vulnerable.
Yesterday, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it had removed the database from its website. Filing a Freedom of Information Act request is now the only way to access annual reports, inspection reports, and other documents that show violations of these federal laws on the part of labs, zoos, breeding facilities, and other entities. As others have rightly noted, many animal advocates can’t afford to file FOIA requests—and all too frequently, the nonhuman animals they aim to help can’t afford to wait the months and years it can take to process them.
Precisely because of the gross inadequacy of animal welfare laws—including the AWA and HPA—the lion’s share of power already belongs to individuals, businesses, and institutions that exploit nonhuman animals. This action by the USDA grants these entities even more power by putting an enormous obstacle in the way of animal advocates gaining access to critical information.
Until courts and legislatures recognize nonhuman animals’ fundamental legal rights, it will be exactly this easy to sweep away what feeble protections members of other species have under our legal system. As history shows and as human tyranny never ceases to put to the test, rights endure. They are inalienable. They are the means by which—in keeping with our most cherished values—we defend the interests of the most vulnerable among us, especially the voiceless and the invisible.
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About the Nonhuman Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is the only civil rights organization working to achieve actual legal rights for members of species other than our own. Our mission is to change the legal status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them. Our current plaintiffs are members of species who have been scientifically proven to be autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. We are working with teams of attorneys on four continents to develop campaigns to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals that are suited to the legal systems of these countries. Our first cases were filed in December of 2013.
About NhRP President Steven M. Wise
Steven M. Wise began his mission to gain rights for nonhuman animals in 1985. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 38 years and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise taught the first class in “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and is currently teaching “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Lewis and Clark Law School and Vermont Law School. He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights; Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. His TED Talk from the TED2015 Conference in Vancouver, Canada was released in May of 2015, and has nearly one million views.