ANIMALS & FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
THIS IS BIGGER THAN RULES
Images from BBC Panorama: Britain's Puppy Dealers Exposed
But first... a little bit of background on how the FOI affects animal industries
Governments allow many animal industries to operate but recognise (or are compelled to recognise because of public concern) that they need to be regulated. The enforcement of the regulations is usually tasked to some kind of public body that is funded by public money and carries out these activities for the public good. Central to the idea of our democracy is that governments who are there to serve the public and who are funded by the public, are also answerable and accountable to the public. One of the ways to ensure that our governments are doing their jobs as they should, 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. Sometimes they need a prod to remind them of this. We're happy to be that prod.
Why the FOI process has such significance when it comes to animal industries
The reason why FOI requests are so crucial in respect of animal industries is because animals can’t advocate for themselves. So where an industry operator is failing and a government body is not regulating them properly, the animals have no way of alerting us to these problems. Information obtained from public bodies provides us with an important tool to understand whether these bodies tasked with upholding welfare laws - are actually doing this.
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
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:
These wooden boxes - called "whelping crates" - are ILLEGAL.
The regulations don’t allow them.
OK - no real surprises there. We don't expect much from puppy farmers.
But, we do expect better from the vets inspecting these places... and yet:
This image is an extract from an inspection record of this puppy farm. In essence the vet did not have an issue with the whelping crates - EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE ILLEGAL- he just required them to have sliding openings so the bitches could be treated to some natural light (in the windowless shed they were kept in).
are you humans for real?
srsly. not cool guys.
So, this is a pretty damning indictment of the local vet service in Co Cavan... right?
YUP. YUP iT SURE IS.
'HOW DID YOU GET THESE RECORDS? RECORDS THAT SHOW THE LOCAL AUTHORITY VET WAS NOT APPLYING THE LAW?
How does this help? Well it allows us to call the vet out on his mistake and what appeared to be a complete lack of understanding of the regulations he is there to enforce. It allows the public to take the vet to task for breaching his duties under the veterinary code. It allows the public to call out the County Council who 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 us to work to ensure that this won’t happen again. It allows us to write content for this very page, to share this information. 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.