A new report says no evidence of mistreatment of animals was found during a recent inspection of a federal livestock facility in Nebraska, but regulators have halted new research there.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shut down new research at the Meat Animal Research Center near Clay Center until improved animal welfare oversight procedures are put in place, The Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday.
A draft report by an animal welfare panel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture was released Monday, saying no mistreatment was found during a three-day visit last month. But the report also found a lack of clarity on specific lines of authority and responsibility for oversight regarding animal care in the cooperative arrangement between the facility and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Vilsack ordered center officials to more clearly define their partnership with the university related to animal welfare.
"It is imperative that all USDA research activities be carried out in a manner consistent with our high standards of humane and responsible treatment of animals in our care," Vilsack told the World-Herald.
The 50-year-old center conducts scientific studies to improve the quantity and quality of U.S. meat production.
The panel's report came in response to a New York Times article in January that alleged systematic abuse of farm animals at the Nebraska facility. The allegations also prompted legislation in Congress that would apply all requirements of the Animal Welfare Act to federal livestock research facilities. The centers currently are not held to the same standards that must be met by university and private researchers.
A public comment period began Monday on the findings of the report, posted at www.ree.usda.gov.
The panel plans to issue a second report at a later date based on its review of animal welfare practices at three to five other federal research facilities.