USDA’s clandestine ‘meat research’ called cruel

Many were shocked to discover the government uses our tax dollars to help the meat industry get more CPC (cash per carcass) out of food animals in clandestine and depraved experiments thanks to a New York Times expose last month. The taxpayer funded largesse at the 55-square mile U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska, is especially shocking since the USDA also tells consumers to “limit red meat” on its food pyramid page. Why is the fundamental conflict of interest in the USDA supporting producers of food which harms the consumers it is sworn to protect tolerated?

One reason people are outraged is the revelation that food animals are subjected to research that is not covered by even minimal rules applied to animals in laboratories. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wrote, “Such heinous examples of egregious cruelty, which would violate the minimum standards of any approved research protocol . . . should not occur anywhere for any reason.” Even veterinarians and workers at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center were shocked at the ruthlessness toward animals which has characterized the center from the start including one scientist reportedly amused by a pig’s agony. Government “scientists” at work.

“You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government—working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture—has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits,” wrote the Times in a follow-up editorial.

The Times expose sparked new legislation called the Aware Act which would extend the federal Animal Welfare Act to food animals at federal facilities such as the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. “As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we felt a responsibility to present a legislative fix that holds the U.S.D.A. to the same humane standards that countless research facilities across the country are held to,” wrote Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa) who sponsored the House version of the bill with Earl Blumenauer (D- OR).

Yet most animal welfare groups question the very existence of such a facility and the unholy relationship between government and industry it represents. Nor does the proposed legislation address the horrors of factory farms and animal research that animals endure daily at thousands of other locations.

Within days of the grisly report, more than 37,000 people signed a Care2 petition originated by the Animal Place to shut down the operation, available here. “More than 6,500 animals have starved to death since the facility’s inception and a 11-17% mortality rate is considered acceptable,” says the petition.

This week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) notes that even as the Research Center’s barbaric practices were exposed, the USDA rolled out its new “Strategic Plan” which seeks “collaboration” with the laboratory, pet and entertainment industries, notorious for misuse and abuse of animals. What?

“It is astounding that just a week after The New York Times damning coverage of the government’s failure to enforce its own rules, the USDA would release a plan that embodies this same disregard for animal welfare,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the authorities to do the right thing and revise this plan immediately to better enforce the laws designed to protect animals.”

While some seek better laws after the exposé and others want the macabre government complicity with Big Meat ended altogether, the public clearly agrees on one thing: appalling abuse of animals is going on at government facilities.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.

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