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 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!

There are good examples of when information obtained through this process has truly helped animals, such as when Cruelty Free was granted access to information from animal research facilities (not without a fight, mind you…) to show whether staffing levels were sufficient to ensure that animals in the facilities were adequately looked after (Cruelty Free International v IC and Imperial College London [2016]). Some of the information obtained showed that the facilities were not staffed as required and this gave rise to concerns about animal welfare.

OK, you might be saying, how does having that information actually help animals? Well, information allows us to seek change. To hold people accountable if and when they do not meet required standards. To let the public know what is happening and bring greater awareness to the plight of many animals. Because, to borrow from Hemingway and to butcher Hemingway, many animal industries are broken. The FOI lets the light in.

ANIMAL LAW GEEKS, READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD.