New Law Review Article Condemns USDA’s EFOIA Failures

PETA Foundation Vice President Holds Agency Accountable for Not Posting Records Online as Required by Law

For Immediate Release:
September 4, 2018

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


The Denver Law Review, a top-100 law review, has just published an article by animal-law scholar and PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders that condemns the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failures to be proactive in posting frequently requested Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement records on its website, as required by law.

In “Fulfilling the Promise of EFOIA’s Affirmative Disclosure Mandate,” Winders argues that the USDA violated the Electronic Freedom of Information Act’s (EFOIA) affirmative-disclosure mandate when it deleted thousands of AWA-related records—including inspection reports, research facilities’ annual reports, and enforcement records—from its website in February 2017, thereby shielding itself from accountability and animal abusers from public scrutiny. The agency remains in violation today, despite having reposted some records. As Winders details in the article, these records are especially important in light of repeated findings by the USDA’s own Office of the Inspector General that the agency’s enforcement of the AWA is inadequate. The USDA is currently facing two lawsuits filed by PETA-led coalitions (in which Winders is also a plaintiff) over its failure to comply with the affirmative-disclosure mandate with regard to AWA-related records.

“The USDA’s blackout of records relating to the animal-welfare violations of circuses, roadside zoos, puppy mills, laboratories, and other animal-exploiting operations isn’t just shady and self-serving—it’s also illegal,” says Winders. “PETA is calling on the USDA to stop safeguarding animal abusers and comply with the law, which exists as a means of increasing public access to government records.”

In addition to her work with PETA Winders has taught animal law at Vermont Law School, was recently a visiting scholar at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and was Harvard’s first Animal Law & Policy fellow. She has forthcoming law review articles addressing the USDA’s policy of automatically renewing AWA licenses even when licensees are actively violating the law as well as the USDA’s use of warnings as its primary means of “enforcing” the AWA.

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