A coalition of animal and health organizations has filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's decision to conceal animal welfare records.
The censored documents include information about revealing whether laboratories, puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other animal-using businesses are engaged in practices that violate the federal Animal Welfare Act [AWA].
Campaigners from animal rights charity PETA, the Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine [PCRM], the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Rescue and Freedom Project (formerly the Beagle Freedom Project) are all plaintiffs in the case.
The coalition alleges that the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] is 'protecting animal abusers' by withholding the information.
It asks a federal court to order the USDA and the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service, the agency division that administers the Animal Welfare Act, to immediately make all records removed last year, and any similar records produced since then, available in unredacted form to the coalition members and the public.
It also requests that future records are made immediately available to all without requiring a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to the PCRM: "The database has been essential in our work to end animal experiments that were not furthering human health research. We used it to shut down Harvard's New England Primate Research Center.
"Its records also helped us stop 186 chimpanzees from being transferred to a research facility that violated the Animal Welfare Act more than 30 times in five years."
PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel, Delcianna Winders, added: "The USDA is protecting animal abusers - and hiding its own failure to protect animals—by refusing to post entire categories of records and heavily redacting those it does post.
"PETA and the other plaintiffs in this case want the USDA to post full public records on its website promptly so that consumers can know whether a puppy mill or a roadside zoo in their town is hurting animals and what the USDA is doing about it."
The plaintiffs are being represented by the Washington, D.C., public-interest firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks.