While the report calls for more rigorous oversight, it stops short of recommending USDA oversight under the Animal Welfare Act. This reflects a gaping hole in the Act, which excludes farm animals used for agricultural research. Right now, a private or university laboratory scientist researching how to cure cancer has to comply with at least the minimal standards of the Animal Welfare Act, but a federal government scientist researching how to breed a more profitable pig doesn't have to comply with any animal welfare standards at all. That's indefensible, inconsistent, and wrong-headed. The federal government should adhere to rules that it imposes on other actors within the realm of laboratory experiments on animals.
The Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors (AWARE) Act, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY)and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would close the loophole that exempts this kind of research from any animal welfare oversight. Congress should pass this legislation. And if Congress fails to act, the USDA should extend AWA protections to animals used in these forms of research. Only that action - and not another whitewash report - will prevent future abuses at facilities like the USMARC.