On Friday, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced discontinued electronic access to inspection reports, annual reports and enforcement records from its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website known as the Animal Care Information System (ACIS). The move, which appears to have been made based on privacy concerns, has received criticism from animal welfare groups stating that the decision removes transparency related to how tax dollars are being used.
Foundation for Biomedical Research President, Matthew R. Bailey gave this statement to Nature Magazine during an interview on Friday: “I would certainly agree that protection of personal information is of utmost importance, especially given the rich history of targeting the individuals involved in animal research. However, this change also makes it more time consuming, although not impossible, for organizations like FBR to analyze trends in animal use in research.”
While the removal of the site eliminates access to ACIS, information is still available through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. “Records will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and Privacy Act,” the agency said.
Mr. Bailey pointed out that the USDA statement specifically outlines: “If the same records are frequently requested via the FOIA process, APHIS has stated it may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website. In addition, some enforcement records will continue to be available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website (https://www.oaljdecisions.dm.usda.gov/)”