In January, we brought you the shocking story that a secret branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) called The U.S. Meat Animal Research Centre, (MARC) had been exposed for horrifying experiments on meat-producing animals, so inhumane that even the meat industry itself is rejecting the federal agency’s grisly methods and glaring lack of oversight.

In an attempt to bolster birth rates and factory farm profit margins despite declines in American meat consumption of up to 36%, every year, the research center ‘modifies’ some 30,000 cows, pigs and sheep – ending in starvation, ghoulish genetic mutation, and surgical mutilation. With death rates for baby and adult animals greater than THREE TIMES industry standards, mangled corpses are buried en masse in a place called the dead pit, flying in the face of a growing U.S. focus on humanely raised meat.

It seems unbelievable that any civilised society would tolerate this kind of cruelty, yet alone have it funded by the government but it would seem that making money is all that matters to the people involved.  This would explain why the Animal Welfare Act  in the USA, which aims to minimise suffering in animal experimentation, exempts farm animals who are being experimented on and used for research purposes to benefit agriculture.

In his shocking  full length investigation , Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss tells us that:

“The center’s director, E. John Pollak, declined to be interviewed, but in written responses, Agriculture Department officials said the center abides by federal rules on animal welfare.”

As the law stands today, the centre is abiding by rules on animal welfare, precisely because there are no laws in place to protect farm animals in this situation. It is completely unacceptable that animals are suffering immensely and dying, because of a loophole which is there to ensure people are making profits. It is also highly disturbing and tragic that people working with animals are able to live with themselves under the guise that they are not breaking any laws. This results in apathy, and becoming desensitised to the suffering of the creatures under their “care”, which is all too evident in Moss’ investigation.  He describes workers pushing animals, or watching them fall, as they stand by and enjoy donuts. A poor cow has her head held in a cage-like device for hours and is mounted by a bull  until her bones have broken, her insides are torn apart, and she dies.

One veterinarian who clearly wanted to improve welfare standards by conducting studies to improve pain relief for animals in the centre, was denied the opportunity and funding. Moss reported that she was fobbed off with the astounding excuse that “the centre lacked the expertise to assess the pain felt by animals.” 

These animals have no chance without our help, which is why Network for Animals has been communicating for months with numerous officials at the Department of Agriculture and sent one of our representatives to Washington D.C.  Over 25,000 of our supporters signed our petition to Secretary Vilsack. Thankfully, these petitions have been presented and seriously considered – and action is underway to address the situation.

In a formal written response, Network for Animals has been assured that “a thorough review of animal handling protocols and procedures” is underway conducted by an “independent panel”,  that the USDA Office of the Inspector General is conducting “its own investigation into the allegations” and we can report that an Animal Welfare Ombudsman (the first) “has been named to provide employees a means of reporting incidents related to animal handling and welfare.”

Network for Animals will not be satisfied until we know that action is being taken to safeguard the lives and welfare of these poor animals. We know that in March, The USDA announced a ban on new animal research projects conducted at MARC, until new procedures ensuring greater accountability for animal welfare were fully implemented. However in a shocking statement, given Moss’ exposé, and the on-record concerns of veterinarians working at MARC, Secretary Vilsack stated that “It is important to note that the independent review did not find mistreatment of animals presently taking place at the MARC centre”. 

Something is not adding up here, and whilst the  U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is still in operation you can be certain that we will remain steadfast, by continuing to monitor the situation. If the assurances we have been given prove to be political talk aimed at quelling controversy, we will not stand idly by. If there is a cover up going on, we will get to the bottom of it.

Our combined voices have shed a bright light on this travesty and forced the attention of officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who have the power to correct matters, or close the center. With your continued support we will continue to monitor the situation, and if the response we have forced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture turns out to be all talk and no action, Network for Animals will take the strongest possible action to shut the facility down forever.