The New York Times, some two months ago, published an investigative report revealing animal welfare violations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. This came as an embarrassment to the U.S. body, since one of its roles is in ensuring adequate animal welfare. The agency is tasked with monitoring the welfare of animals used in some external federally funded research.
As a result of the NY Times investigation, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has now announced that the agency is halting new research at the facility until animal welfare-related conditions, training and oversight are improved.
According to Reuters, the USDA has prepared a draft report where it maintains that it has not observed any instances of “animal abuse, misuse, or mistreatment.” However, it does acknowledge that the Meat Animal Research Center was not in compliance with policies set by the agency’s Agricultural Research Service.
Furthermore, the report notes that the independent panel that conducted the review of activities at the Nebraska facility noted that the Meat Animal Research Center’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee “provided the review panel no evidence that it met regularly to discuss issues or concerns over animal care, and no evidence of a formal review or approval process for research projects proposed by the oversight committee members themselves” (as quoted in the Reuters review.)
In related news — with no irony intended — Digital Journal reported last week that the USDA has cited the University of Oklahoma for abusing baboons. This issue of animal welfare came about through a routine inspection.