The Tricky Way America Allows Corporations to Torture Animals Under Cover of Science
I recently wrote an article describing a number of the horrors surrounding the animal testing industry, specifically the use of dogs in that industry. The article relied heavily on information written in an article by Glenn Greenwald and Leighton Akio Woodhouse entitled “Bred To Suffer.” During the course of my article, I wrote of how lax laws regarding animal testing are in America, a fact that some have found surprising.
As a result, I thought it necessary to provide a short follow-up to point out just how tolerant America’s legal system is to torturing animals under the guise of experimentation.
The main law that oversees animal experimentation is the 1966 Animal Welfare Act (aka the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act). Under the law, all forms of experimentation on animals is legally acceptable despite better and more accurate research methods currently in existence. A few states have banned product testing on animals so long as alternatives are available.
The law does require minimal standards of “humane treatment” before the animals are tortured, however. But, even when the rules are complied with, the standards are anything but humane.
One such example is that the standards require that a dogs’ cage be six inches taller than its height and six inches longer than its body length. But, if the “researchers” double the size of the cage, they can avoid the standard that requires the dog to be released from its cage for exercise.
Greenwald and Woodhouse write,
The cruelty even of treatment that complies with legal standards is illustrated by a handbook from one of the field’s most authoritative researchers. The Laboratory Animal Medicine and Science training program series, developed by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, the handbook is designed to create industry norms. Its author is Jerald Silverman, a leading authority figure in the animal research industry.
Corporations and Academic Institutions “Legally” Torture Animals
But the legal standards, weak as they are, are still routinely violated by corporations and academic institutions. When the violations are discovered, almost nothing happens to the offenders even when the violations are incredibly egregious.
Federal oversight of both research facilities and the breeders that provide them with their unfortunate test subjects has always been weak. This weakness has resulted in the fact that, even when horrific violations of the law and standards have been committed, penalties are so small that they barely even register as penalties at all.
These penalties and lax oversight has unfortunately increased in the Trump era as the result of the administration’s focus on de-regulation.
Greenwald and Woodhouse write,
The USDA, like most cabinet agencies, has within it an inspector general to investigate the agency itself and determine its compliance with federal law. In 2014, the inspector general investigated the unit of the USDA responsible for oversight of research facilities that experiment on animals — the Animal Care Unit of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — and issued a report documentingsystematic failures to enforce the law or meaningfully punish corporate violators of animal abuse laws.
The inspector general found that the Animal Care Unit “did not follow its own criteria in closing at least 59 cases that involved grave (e.g., animal deaths) or repeat welfare violations.” Even when violators were punished, the agency ensured that the punishments were so trivial that they would inflict no real consequences.
At times, the inspector general report documented, “some violators that committed grave violations only received official warning letters,” and even where violations “were mostly either serious (e.g., compromise the health and well-being of animals) or grave (e.g., result in animal deaths), violators were offered penalties reduced to between 57 and 97 percent of AWA’s authorized maximum penalty per violation, or 86 percent on average.”
The USDA has been notoriously permissive, for decades, when it comes to corporate abusers of dogs for research purposes. In 1995, the inspector general found that “dealers and other facilities had little incentive to comply with AWA because monetary penalties were, in some cases, arbitrarily reduced and often so low that violators regarded them as a cost of doing business.”
A decade later, nothing changed: Matters were just as grim, as the 2005 inspector general report found that “in addition to reducing the penalty by 75 percent, APHIS offered other concessions — making penalties basically meaningless. Violators continued to consider the monetary stipulation as a normal cost of business, rather than a deterrent for violating the law.” In 2010, still nothing had changed: “an OIG audit of problematic dealers found that APHIS’ enforcement process was ineffective, and the agency was misusing its own guidelines to lower penalties for AWA violators.”
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As The Intercept has previously reported, much of this lax regulation in the context of industrial abuse of animals is the result of the revolving door form of legalized corruption that dominates so much of Washington. As our reporting noted, “The USDA is typically dominated by executives from the very factory farm industries that are most in need of vibrant regulation.”
President Donald Trump’s appointee to head the USDA, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, has extensive ties to the agribusiness sector he’s now supposed to oversee and regulate, a history of lax enforcement of industry rules, and substantial contributions from corporations over which his department exercises regulatory supervision. It is thus unsurprising that the USDA, early in 2017, “abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities,” according to the Washington Post.
The USDA’s own data shows that enforcement of animal welfare laws is plummeting during the Trump era. The amount of civil penalties assessed, for instance, went from $3.8 million in fiscal year 2016, to only $467,150 in fiscal year 2017. The numbers for 2018 are on par to be far worse still:
To the extent that there are bills pending in Congress on this enforcement scheme, many of them would actually weaken, rather than strengthen, the already permissive regime. Just last week, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, “Representative David Rouzer (R-NC) introduced an amendment to absolve experimental laboratories of the very minimal requirement for an annual inspection by the USDA to ensure compliance with the basic animal care standards of the Animal Welfare Act. If approved, research facilities would only have to submit to USDA oversight of their use of animals once every three years.”
While Americans have become more dog friendly than ever and most Americans would recoil at the idea of abusing or torturing a pet dog as well as face legal penalties, corporations and universities can do as they like as much as they like with no repercussions whatsoever.
Unfortunately, a combination of ignorance, lack of empathy, and a worship of “science” has ensured that animal testing doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. In fact, with the Trump administration’s focus on “de-regulation,” it appears that we will see an uptick in the Hitlerian attitude toward animals.
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Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies,Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria,and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 1,000 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.