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Today marks a shameful anniversary of inaction by USDA: On July 19, 2012, the agency filed a formal complaint against Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (SCBT)—a research laboratory and animal dealer—alleging multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) from 2007 through May 2, 2012.
Despite this complaint hanging over SCBT, problems apparently continued at the lab: following inspections conducted on May 24, June 26, August 23, September 26, October 31 and December 18, 2012, USDA inspection reports alleged far more egregious violations—including but not limited to inadequate veterinary care resulting in animal suffering, and use of goats who had anemia and other illnesses in antibody production. The most shocking conduct alleged to have occurred, cited by inspectors following the October 31 inspection, was that SCBT management and veterinarians had, for years, deliberately denied the existence of an entire site housing 841 goats used in antibody production to USDA inspectors.
On February 20 of this year, USDA once again cited SCBT's failure to provide adequate veterinary care. Meanwhile, one full year has passed since the formal complaint was filed, and USDA has failed to take any discernible enforcement action. Further, it has not amended the July 19, 2012, complaint or filed a new complaint to expand on the charges.
Unlike USDA, SCBT has acted—and raised the stakes immeasurably. On June 14, 2013, SCBT switched its legal representation to Covington & Burling (C&B), an immensely powerful firm that boasts of representing "more pharmaceutical companies in more criminal and civil investigations by federal and state government agencies, including high-profile congressional inquiries than any firm in the country." C&B has also represented leading trade associations, such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the pro-animal-research lobby, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). (In fact, AWI has firsthand experience facing C&B in its representation of NABR. When AWI sued USDA for failing to promulgate regulations to protect the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates, NABR intervened on behalf of USDA—and was represented by C&B during that appeal.)
It is a sad truth that USDA routinely settles cases against labs such as SCBT, no matter how egregious the AWA violations alleged. In the present case, AWI is concerned that USDA's failure to take any substantive action for an entire year—even as additional allegations of apparently unprecedented violations have piled up—coupled with SCBT's hiring of this immensely powerful firm that touts multiple settlements of AWA cases, will result in yet another settlement, and a slap on the wrist for SCBT.
AWI contends that the only enforcement action commensurate with these allegations of unprecedented violations—which allegations include willful deception—as well as the only enforcement action consistent with the rule of law, the proper treatment of animals, and the concept of deterrence, is to seek revocation of SCBT's dealer license.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Many of you previously wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging USDA not to settle with SCBT. Thus far, USDA has not done so. But with the additional alleged violations and SCBT's decision to hire a high-powered law firm to handle its defense, it is critically important the Secretary Vilsack once again hears from concerned citizens who do not wish to see SCBT unpunished.
Please write Secretary Vilsack and tell him that one year of USDA inaction is enough. The agency must amend its existing complaint or file a new one that incorporates all of the alleged violations documented after May 2, 2012. It must stand its ground against Covington & Burling. It must push for revocation of SCBT's dealer license.
You can send an email through the Compassion Index by clicking here, where you will find suggested talking points to include in your email.
You may write to Secretary Vilsack at the following address:
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Below are some talking points you can use in your letter to Secretary Vilsack:
- It has been one year since USDA filed a formal complaint against Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (SCBT) alleging multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act dating from 2007 through May 2, 2012.
- Since the incidents set forth in the July 19, 2012, complaint USDA inspectors have cited SCBT again and again, alleging numerous additional and even more serious violations, many of which have resulted in needless animal suffering.
- Most shockingly, inspectors have alleged that SCBT management and veterinarians had, for years, deliberately deceived USDA inspectors by denying the existence of an entire site housing 841 goats used in antibody production.
- In light of these facts, USDA must amend its existing complaint or file a new one that incorporates all of the alleged violations documented after May 2, 2012 and continuing through this year.
- Given the egregious nature of the alleged violations, USDA must not settle and allow SCBT to continue business as usual. USDA must seek the highest possible fine and most importantly, revocation of SCBT's dealer license.
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As always, thank you very much for your help!