Yuma, Ariz. – This morning, PETA filed an appeal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contending that the agency is violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by withholding photographs, videos, and other records from nine months of inspections of The Camel Farm in Yuma, which racked up more than 30 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) during that time.
Months after PETA submitted three FOIA requests for documents, the USDA responded by saying that it wouldn’t hand over the nearly 200 pages of photographs and over 30 videos showing The Camel Farm’s violations of the law, purportedly in order to protect the facility from things like “embarrassment.”
Among other violations, the roadside zoo was cited for failing to provide a host of animals with adequate veterinary care, including Shyla, a coatimundi who was left to languish for months with a swollen eye that was sticking out of the socket and who later had to be euthanized as well as an underweight ibex whose hip bones were protruding and who was found dead two weeks later.
“Any roadside zoo that allows an animal to drop dead in her cage without veterinary care should be embarrassed and so should the USDA for allowing this hellhole to stay open,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The USDA should be enforcing the law, not shielding lawbreakers from scrutiny, and PETA will keep fighting for access to vital information, including these records.”
The USDA’s own Office of the Inspector General has called the agency to task for failing to document violations adequately, which puts animals at higher risk for neglect or ill treatment. That’s why PETA-whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”-has been campaigning against the USDA’s lack of transparency ever since the agency removed thousands of inspection reports from its website by publishing many of the scrubbed documents, filing lawsuits against it over the blackout, and more.