Animal rights groups, such as Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have, in recent years, turned to a disturbing tactic of singling out individual animal owners and animal related businesses by publishing their names, their addresses, private business information, and photographs of their animals and place of business on-line, while falsely manipulating the information with the intent of damaging their business, and discouraging customers and advertisers from continuing their business relationship.
Any animal owner who engages in commerce with their animals, whether they exhibit, transport, raise, buy, or sells animals, is required to be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A tremendous amount of information is generated by licensees, to the USDA, with the expectation that it will be used to benefit licensees and U.S. agriculture, as a whole.
Historically, USDA has been a valuable partner for licensees, but unfortunately, that is no longer the case. USDA has succumbed to the pressure of animal rights extremists by hiring them into key positions at USDA and by allowing the release of private licensee information knowing full well that it will be used to attack the licensee’s business and customers.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was intended to provide transparency to government, not to be used against American citizens, yet this process is being used frequently by animal rights groups whose nefarious use of such private, confidential information is being handed to them by the USDA.
FOIA has unfortunately been hijacked and is now used by animal rights groups to gain access to confidential business information of USDA licensees to be manipulated and used against those citizens. Business owners wouldn’t like it very much if competitors received access to their financials or exclusive information. It’s not a stretch to expect that FOIA requests for personal information from the IRS in the future with USDA setting this precedent.
In the case of USDA, Executive Order 12600, Sec. 3 (a)(ii), specifically protects the licensee from disclosure of private and confidential business information that would threaten harm to a person or their business interests. Despite required disclosure to the USDA/APHIS of this personal information as a licensed USDA licensee, there is no obvious benefit to the public of the release of private financial and other information.
Just five months ago, on September 9, 2016, in the case of American Farm Bureau Federation et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al., Case No. 13-cv-1751, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, stopped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from releasing addresses and other information about animal farms under the Freedom of Information Act, finding that even if certain personal information might otherwise be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the provision of such personal data to environmental groups and animal rights groups would constitute a violation of the submitters’ right to privacy. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council sued the EPA in July 2013 after the agency released the names, addresses and GPS locations of farms that keep animals in close confinement in several states. Environmental groups, including Food & Water Watch, had requested the information, and the plaintiffs sought to prevent further disclosures.
When the USDA was created by an act of Congress in 1862 with the goals of working to improve and maintain farm income, and to develop and expand markets abroad for agricultural products, it clearly was not anticipated that USDA would be the law enforcement arm of the radical environmental and animal rights extremists.
The Cavalry Group considers America’s food resources to be akin to, and as important as, our energy resources to protect the sovereignty and security of the United States. Our failure to develop our ample energy resources has kept our industries and our economy as a whole at risk, subject to the whims of unstable and expensive supplies from the Middle East, Mexico and South America. Agriculture, animal enterprise, and food production is already in the crosshairs.
While USDA’s cultural changes and its failure to protect USDA licensees’ confidential information may run under the radar of the average American, our ability to maintain our agricultural production is a key element to maintaining our national security, and therefore, should be important to all Americans. Radical environmentalists and animal rights extremists are using USDA as a Trojan horse, and hopefully the Trump administration will help the American people see the danger right in front of them and avoid the same fate as the Kingdom of Troy.
Mindy Patterson is the President of The Cavalry Group, a member based company protecting and defending the Constitutional and private property rights of law abiding animal owners, animal-related business, hunters, and agriculture concerns nationwide. Follow Mindy Patterson and The Cavalry Group on Twitter: @cowgirlathart and @TheCavalryGroup