Physicians Committee Statement: Doctors Sue USDA Again for Censoring Animal Welfare Data

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE April 16, 2018
Physicians Committee Statement: Doctors Sue USDA Again for Censoring Animal Welfare Data
From Mark Kennedy, Vice President of Legal Affairs

In filing a second lawsuit regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 shutdown of an animal welfare database, the Physicians Committee is keeping the pressure on.

The Physicians Committee is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that requires the USDA to fully restore its electronic reading room, a website that included a searchable database of detailed reports on how animals are used in laboratories and whether those facilities are complying with the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Shortly after the 2017 shutdown, the Physicians Committee, which used the database extensively in its work to modernize and humanize research and medical training, filed a lawsuit to compel the USDA to restore the electronic reading room. That lawsuit and related public pressure successfully resulted in the restoration of much of the material, but redactions to the material are still an obstruction to the Physicians Committee’s work.

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.

The lawsuit filed today 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 Physicians Committee and the public. It also requests that future records are made immediately available to all without requiring a Freedom of Information Act request.

In the meantime, the Physicians Committee has to file FOIA requests to obtain certain documents previously available in the electronic reading room. These requests can take months or years to complete and may require legal appeals or even lawsuits to obtain the information that used to be freely available.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.

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