WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to publicly disclose records on the agency website related to the treatment of animals in US slaughter plants as part of a lawsuit settlement filed by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Farm Sanctuary.

On Jan. 3, a federal magistrate judge for the US District Court for the Western District of New York approved the settlement.

A 2018 complaint by the AWI alleged that the USDA did not disclose records relating to the enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. This disclosure is required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The records exposed the inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter plants across the country.

“Thousands of slaughterhouse records are now readily available to concerned citizens and animal advocacy groups who wish to monitor USDA enforcement without waiting months or even years for the department to respond to FOIA requests,” said Erin Sutherland, staff attorney for the AWI’s farm animal program.

During 2019, the court denied the USDA’s motion to dismiss the case. The agreement states that the USDA is responsible for paying the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. 

The records requested going back to January 2017, are now available on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website.

In its settlement, the AWI said that the FSIS will begin posting online Noncompliance Records and Memoranda of Interview that are associated to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. The settlement added that this will occur on a quarterly basis for at least three years.