The USDA Is Doing What?

Action

None needed at this time.

Update

December 21, 2016: The USDA’s Office of Inspector General released a long-awaited report on its investigation of the US Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). The report concluded that the USDA should improve its oversight of the facility and increase transparency. It recommended that the USDA “establish adequate policies, procedures, and processes related to oversight of animal welfare at USMARC.” However, the report claims that the OIG found no evidence of systemic mistreatment of animals, and that the facility meets meat industry norms. This may be true, as some meat-industry standards are reprehensible. Still as Dr. James Keen, who worked at USMARC for over 20 years, points out in a New York Times article, even the industry should be appalled at the neglect of animals in the care of USMARC. AWI will monitor for changes based on the OIG report and will continue to pressure the USDA to make changes to improve its treatment of animals subject to research. 


 

Photo by Tim Pokorny. Please note that this is not from the MARC facility.

USDA is circling the wagons: Under intense questioning from members of the US House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, USDA officials downplayed the seriousness of the animal cruelty allegations leveled at the Meat Animal Research Center. Moreover, the report issued by an independent panel established by Secretary Vilsack to review the animal handling protocols, policies, and research practices at MARC found serious shortcomings; but there was no urgency in its findings and it made no effort to connect them to the reported animal abuse. While we were initially heartened by the secretary’s response to the New York Times article, subsequent actions have been less encouraging, and we await the inspector general’s report. In the meantime, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure that animal welfare is a top priority; please take the action below.

 

Dear Humanitarian,

Right now in Nebraska at the US Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), researchers are performing heinous experiments on farm animals—all in the name of producing meat faster and cheaper.

MARC opened 50 years ago, and since then it has performed experiments on pigs, sheep, and cattle which have led to disease, pain, and premature deaths, according to a recent New York Times article. According to the article, the center "has become a destination for the kind of high-risk, potentially controversial research that other institutions will not do or are no longer allowed to do." At MARC, the animals are treated as by-products of the experiments—whose sole aim is to boost production—and little (if any) thought is given to their suffering. Surgeries and ghastly experiments are often performed by untrained and unskilled individuals and with little oversight from veterinarians. Examples of what has taken place over the years:

  • Scores of newborn lambs left alone in a field to die of starvation, exposure, and predation as workers were actually forbidden to offer assistance;
  • Breeding experiments that cause deformed calves, high death rates, and other birth complications;
  • In one "sexual libido" experiment, a young cow died from injuries suffered after bulls were allowed to continuously mount her for hours. Said one former researcher at MARC: "'The cow's head was locked in a cagelike device to keep her immobile. … Her back legs were broken. Her body was just torn up.'"
  • 6,500 animals have starved to death over the past 30 years, and 625 have died from mastitis, an extremely painful, but treatable condition. In one instance, a ewe slowly starved after she was rendered unable to eat because of a jaw abscess that had likely been growing for months.
     

The Animal Welfare Act, which provides certain protections for animals in research, does not apply to farm animals used in agriculture research. In fact, they are not even considered "animals" under this law. Because of this glaring omission, MARC is allowed to continue torturing animals more or less with impunity. 

The cruel treatment of animals at MARC in pursuit of greater profit and production for industrial agriculture is unconscionable. It is time for the USDA to shut down this barbaric facility.