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ANIMALS & FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

THIS IS BIGGER THAN RULES 

Images from BBC Panorama: Britain's Puppy Dealers Exposed

Let’s start with a little bit of background on how FOI affects animal industries.

Governments allow many animal industries to operate, but it recognises (or is compelled to recognise because of public pressure and concern) that animal industries need to be regulated. Usually, some kind of public body is tasked with the enforcement of any relevant regulations. The body, like a local authority, is funded by public money and is meant to carry out these enforcement and oversight activities for the public good.

Central to the foundation of our democracy is that governments – there to serve the public, and funded by the public – are also answerable and accountable to the public (that’s a lot of the word public! but we are trying to make a point here! the public is integral!). One way to ensure that our governments are doing their jobs properly is to obtain information about how they are conducting themselves. This can be done through Freedom of Information requests.

Government is answerable to the public. We cannot forget this and neither can they. Sometimes they need a prod to remind them of this. We're happy to be that prod.

cute dog with big stick

 hooman!

     i hulp.

Why the FOI process is so significant for animal industries

FOI requests are so crucial for animal industries because animals can’t advocate for themselves. (We hate the b.s. cliche of animal activists calling themselves ‘the voices for the voiceless’, because animals are not voiceless! BUT, they also are unable to go into their local authority and make a well-reasoned complaint, so, here we are.) Where an industry operator is failing, and a government body is not regulating them properly, the animals are unable to alert us to these problems. Information obtained from public bodies through FOI requests provides us with an important tool to understand whether these bodies tasked with upholding welfare laws are actually doing their job. DO YOUR JOB, GUYS!

Puppy farming in Ireland:

An example of why the FOI process is important

In May 2016, BBC Panorama aired “Britain’s puppy dealers exposed”, which provided footage of bitches kept in whelping crates in Raymond Cullivan’s puppy farm in County Cavan. The footage documented the conditions the dogs were kept in:

Image from puppy farm in Ireland

Extract from an inspection of Raymond Cullivan's farm undertaken by Cavan County Vet Michael O'Sullivan and  Charlie Grant (DAFM) on 29 May 2015.

These wooden boxes - called "whelping crates" - are ILLEGAL.
The regulations do not allow them.

OK, there’s no real surprise there. We don't expect much from puppy farmers.

But, we do expect better from the veterinarians inspecting these places. Wouldn’t you? Vets are our friends, right? Well, not all of them.

Inspection recrod from Irish puppy farm

This image is an extract from an inspection record of this puppy farm. In essence, the vet paid to inspect these premises did not find an issue with the whelping crates, EVEN THOUGH they are illegal. The vet simply required the farmer to have sliding openings so the bitches could be treated to some natural light (in the windowless shed they were kept in, so, you know, GREAT WORK, ALL). Was the vet not aware of the law, or was he letting them have a pass? Either way, it’s very, very bad.

Upset/ angry chihuahua

are you humans for real?

srsly. not cool guys. 

So, this is a pretty damning indictment of the local vet service in County Cavan, right?

YUP. iT SURE IS.

'WAIT, BUT HOW DID YOU OBTAIN THESE RECORDS, THIS DOCUMENT THAT SHOWS THE LOCAL AUTHORITY VET WAS NOT APPLYING THE LAW?

FOI BABY 

Our FOI request allowed us to call the vet out on his mistake and what appears to be his complete lack of understanding of the regulations he is professionally obligated to enforce. Requests like these allow the public to challenge the vet for breaching his duties under the veterinary code. It allows the public to call out the County Council, which initially said that this farm was operating in compliance with the regulations (see Cavan County Council statement to BBC Panorama Programme 17 May 2016). It allows the public and organisations like TAAP to fight to ensure that this won’t happen again. It allows us to share this vital information on this very page. It allows you to help us, to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. It also lets people know what actually happens on puppy farms, what takes place behind the breeders Facebook posts and the DoneDeal ads, behind all the incredible claims of them providing wonderful pet homes.

So this is all pretty cool, right? 
And you know what - anyone can make a FOI. Even better - we have a how-to. POW. Just click here for magic.

ANIMAL LAW GEEKS, READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD.

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