The Government Purged Animal Welfare Data. So This Guy Is Publishing It

Updated: Feb 17, 2017 6:27 AM Pacific | Originally published: Feb 16, 2017

An Arizona man who has published thousands of animal welfare documents on his website since the government purged the once-public information is pledging to keep digging up data until federal officials reverse course.

Russ Kick, a 47-year-old writer and anthologist, said he immediately sprang into action last week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture suddenly pulled from its website a slew of papers regarding animal welfare at thousands of facilities across the country. Since then, he has made public again more than 10,000 documents, and thousands more are set to hit the web soon.

“We have the right to know what’s going on,” Kick told TIME on Thursday. “The more we know about what’s going on, the better.”

For nearly a year, Kick has been running a website called, where he has re-published information wiped from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. His only goal, he said, is to increase transparency and make important government documents more easily available.

Months before the Agriculture Department decided to no longer give the public access to its inspection reports and records of violations and enforcement, Kick said he had an inkling that information would soon disappear. His hunch led him to save nine years’ worth of data from the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

“I’ve been bracing for the worst as far as transparency and secrecy because [President Donald Trump] definitely has shown that he’s not pro-transparency by any means,” Kick said. “I was just surprised that they were there because it’s sensitive stuff.”

APHIS’s website used to have a search tool that made inspection records and violations at animal facilities publicly accessible. It allowed anyone to check government regulation of how animals are treated at about 9,000 zoos, circuses, research laboratories, dog breeding operations and other facilities in the country. APHIS, which is part of the USDA, said the decision to remove that page was “based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”

Kick said he was “upset” by the change — a reaction echoed by many animal activists in the country. Several advocates and animal law experts who had also previously saved the APHIS documents have sent thousands of pages of data to Kirk to be published on his website. Kick said his collection is helpful when it comes to checking back on facilities that have previously come under fire for potential violations, including an Indiana wildlife refuge where tiger cubs were allegedly abused in 2015.

The public USDA reports served an important purpose, Kick said, which was shining a light on potentially deadly situations. “I can’t even read the documents I’m posting,” he said. “I tried reading them, and the things that are going on are just nightmare-stuff.”

Despite his efforts, Kick concedes his work can only go so far. Unless the government approves a Freedom of Information Act submission and hands over requested data, no new documents can come to light, only the ones he already has from previous years. “There is no easy way at this point to get access to those documents,” Kick said, adding that he will file as many FOIA requests as needed and keep up his fight until the end.

“As long as the database is offline, I’ll keep posting whatever people send me and I’ll keep trying to find more on my own,” he said.

A Guy Who Exists Purely to Troll the Humane Society Was Just Hired by Donald Trump

USDA transition leader Brian Klippenstein heads a group that literally defends puppy mills.

Update (12/13/2016): The buzz around Heidi Heitkamp as USDA chief continues to dissipate—Politico reports that “Donald Trump’s closest rural advisers are trying to torpedo” the push to choose her; and speculation that she would turn down the offer anyway is mounting. Meanwhile, Breitbart News, a far-right online journal whose former executive chair is a top Trump adviser, is pushing Rep. Timothy A. Huelskamp (R-Kansas), who lost his primary race this year and will soon be available for a new job. Huelskamp, a tea party stalwart, would represent quite a departure from Heitkamp.

Like a calf lurching about a rodeo field to evade a rope, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition has taken a chaotic course. And nowhere is that truer than at the US Department of Agriculture, the sprawling agency that oversees everything from food aid programs to farm policy to food safety at meat inspection plants.

I asked Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at HSUS, whether his group opposes the keeping of pets. “That would certainly be news to the vast numbers of our staff who bring their dogs to work here,” he replied.

On Saturday, Politico reiterated a rumor that’s been circulating for weeks that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is Trump’s likely pick to take the USDA helm. Wait, a Democrat? She was a big supporter of the 2014 reauthorization of the farm bill, the twice-a-decade legislation that shapes US food and ag policy. Like all farm bills since the 1980s, this one was generally Big Ag friendly, but Heitkamp supported some measures that contradict meat industry interests, which seem to hold plenty of sway at Trump Tower. She took credit for “beat[ing] back efforts to repeal Country of Origin Labeling,” which tells consumers where their meat is raised and is hated by big meatpacking companies. She also helped fend off an effort to kill the farm bill’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards (GIPSA) Act rules, which charge the USDA with curbing the market power big meat-packers can deploy against farmers. Nor has Heitkamp particularly been a magnet for ag industry cash, though she has only run one campaign for federal office. But she’s a conventional Democratic farm state senator, not an ag radical.

Choosing a centrist Democrat like Heitkamp would be quite a departure from earlier versions of Trump’s USDA short list, which included wild cards like Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who unapologetically shares fake news stories on his office’s Facebook page and once tried to bill taxpayers for a trip to take a medical procedure called a Jesus shot. Charles Herbster has also appeared as a prime candidate for USDA chief—he’s a man who currently runs a a multilevel marketing operation (a highly controversial business model that relies on a network of individual “distributors” to sell products) and who finances and helps lead a Big Ag federal super-PAC also funded by Monsanto, DuPont, Archer Daniels Midland, and other agribusiness giants.

Indeed, a day before the Politico piece hailing Heitkamp as the likely pick, Trump veered in a quite different direction, announcing a new member of the team overseeing the transition of the USDA: Brian Klippenstein, executive director of a group called Protect the Harvest. The brainchild of Forrest Lucas—a right-wing oil magnate and cattle rancher who has himself emerged as a contender to serve as Trump’s secretary of the interior—Protect the Harvest seems to exist mainly to troll the Humane Society of the United States.

On its website, Protect the Harvest warns that HSUS seeks to “put an end to animal ownership.” This is nonsense—the Humane Society is by no means coming for your furry friend. Its website features “tools you need to help the pets in your home and beyond.” I asked Paul Shapiro, vice president of policy at HSUS, whether his group opposes the keeping of pets. “That would certainly be news to the vast numbers of our staff who bring their dogs to work here,” he replied.

Protect the Harvest’s real beef with HSUS appears to be that the group promotes legislation that curtails some of the harsher aspects of factory-scale animal farming. The two groups recently clashed over a Massachusetts ballot measure this fall to ban tight cages in egg and pork production. Lucas personally donated nearly $200,0000 to defeat the measure, and Klippenstein actively campaigned against it. The measure passed with overwhelming support on November 8.

Protect the Harvest’s zeal to fight regulation of animal farming extends even to “puppy mills“—large facilities that churn out dogs like factory farms churn out pigs. Back in 2010, the year before Protect the Harvest was founded, Lucas vigorously opposed a Missouri ballot measure to “require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles,” and to “prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets.” In 2014, Protect the Harvest opposed an Illinois bill banning the retail sale of puppy-mill dogs.

Klippenstein isn’t the only member of Trump’s USDA transition team. Recall that back in November, Trump picked a lobbyist whose clients include Little Ceasar’s Pizza, the soda and snack industries, and the Illinois Soybean Association to lead the agency’s transition. He soon abruptly quit after Trump announced a ban on registered lobbyists serving in the transition.

But then, a few days later, Trump tapped Joel Leftwich, Republican staff director for the Senate Agriculture Committee, to help lead the USDA transition. Leftwich took the Senate job in 2015—after having spent the previous three years as the director of government affairs for Pepsi. In 2010—just before another stint on the Senate ag committee staff—Leftwich had worked as a lobbyist for seed and chemical giant DuPont. In other words, Team Trump pushed out a current lobbyist for Big Soda and Big Ag—only to replace him with a guy who basically lives in the revolving door between government and agribusiness, and whose latest turn as a lobbyist ended way back in 2015.

So basically, we’ve got a two-time industry lobbyist and an anti-animal-welfare zealot teaming up to choose the next USDA chief.

What that means for the prospect of Heitkamp taking the USDA reins is unclear. She narrowly won her North Dakota Senate seat in 2012, and Trump won the statein 2016 with 63 percent of the vote. As a Democrat, she faces a hard fight for reelection in 2018, which may be why she agreed to meet with Trump on December 2, in what was widely read as a job interview. If she exits the Senate now, North Dakota would have to hold a special election to replace her, and the winner would almost certainly be a Republican. On Monday, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev,), the soon-to-retire former Democratic leader of the Senate, sought to throw water on the Heitkamp-to-USDA rumor, telling CNN that “I would doubt very seriously” that she’d agree to join the Trump administration. Whether he has knowledge of Heitkamp’s intentions, or is just hoping to keep a Senate seat in the party fold, is unclear.

But as a centrist Dem, she seems like a bit of a vanilla pick, given the characters who are running Trump’s USDA transition.

Animal Welfare On The Ballot In November


When voters go to the polls this November, they won’t only be making critical decisions about who represents them in the White House, Congress and state and local offices. In a number of states, the people will vote on the humane treatment of animals—deciding whether to adopt policies on factory farming, wildlife trafficking and other animal protection issues.

Since the early 1990s, The Humane Society of the United States and allied organizations have been involved in about 50 statewide ballot contests, and voters have sided with animals about 70 percent of the time. They’ve banned cockfighting in three of the last states where it remained legal (Arizona, Missouri and Oklahoma), set humane treatment standards for dogs in the largest puppy mill state (Missouri), stopped extreme confinement of animals on factory farms (Arizona, California and Florida), and adopted new policies to restrict greyhound racing; horse slaughter; body-gripping traps and poisons; trophy hunting of bears, cougars and wolves and more. When politicians in the state legislatures have been held captive by special interests—such as big agribusiness, the trophy hunting lobby or even organized cockfighting groups—animal advocates have petitioned to put these questions directly to the people.

This year in Massachusetts, voters will decide on Question 3, which would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will remove inhumane and unsafe products from the Massachusetts marketplace. Backed by the MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Zoo New England and hundreds of Massachusetts veterinarians and family farmers, more than 170,000 Massachusetts voters signed petitions to place Question 3 on the ballot. Question 3 adds momentum to what’s already occurring in the marketplace, with McDonald’s, Walmart and 200 other major food retail brands pledging to change their procurement practices and source only cage-free eggs and meats.

In Oregon, voters will weigh in on Measure 100, which will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction. Every day close to 100 elephants are brutally killed in Africa, their tusks hacked off to supply the black market for ivory trinkets. Poachers poison watering holes with cyanide, killing hundreds of elephants at once. Organized criminal gangs and armed rebels use military weapons to kill wildlife for the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Measure 100 will ensure that Oregon does not provide a market for endangered species products resulting from wildlife poaching and trafficking. If passed, Oregon will join California, Washington, Hawaii and other states in shutting down local markets for those who seek to profit from this destructive wildlife trade.

In Oklahoma, family farmers and animal advocates are opposing State Question 777, a measure referred to the ballot by politicians to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would protect corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land and animals. The measure is so broadly worded that it could prevent future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. Even the president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau said the language is flawed, and “I wish that language weren’t in there.”

Those aren’t the only states where voters will see ballot issues related to animals. Californians will vote on Proposition 67, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish and birds. Some ocean animals mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Montanans will vote on I-777, which would restrict the use of cruel traps and snares on public lands. In Colorado, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to have a say on future constitutional ballot measures, including those dealing with animal protection. The HSUS favors the California and Montana measures, but strongly opposes the Colorado measure as an attack on citizen voting.

When you enter the voting booth or send in your mail ballot this November, make sure you don’t stop after the candidate races. Continue down the ballot and review the issues at stake, and you could have a role in promoting the humane treatment of animals and protecting these creatures from cruelty and suffering, and preserving your rights to participate in democratic decision-making in future elections.

Michael Markarian is chief operating officer of The Humane Society of the United States, and president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Trial of activist who fed water to pigs en route to slaughter resumes today

Anita Krajnc gives pigs water near a slaughterhouse in Burlington. Krajnc has pleaded not guilty to a mischief charge in the June 2015 incident.

Anita Krajnc expected to take the stand to defend herself against mischief charge

By Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press Posted: Oct 03, 2016 

A woman who gave cool water to hot pigs on their way to slaughter last year is expected to take the stand in her own defence today.

Anita Krajnc, an activist with the group Toronto Pig Save, has pleaded not guilty to a mischief charge in the June 2015 incident.

Krajnc freely admits to feeding water to the pigs, but contends it wasn’t illegal for her to do so.

Today is the third court date in the trial, which started in late August.

On previous days, the court heard from the truck driver who was transporting the pigs to a Burlington, Ont., slaughterhouse.

Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf testified that it wasn’t unusual for Krajnc and other animal rights activists to offer water to the pigs, and the Fearman’s Pork slaughterhouse has never turned away the animals he hauls there because of it.

During cross-examination, Veldjesgraaf said the animals are given water before and after they’re loaded onto the trucks, but not during transit.

Court also watched video of the 2015 incident, in which Krajnc is seen yelling to the truck driver, “Have some compassion, have some compassion!”

“Let’s call the cops,” the driver says, holding his phone.

“Call Jesus,” Krajnc says as she continues to allow the pigs to drink the water.

“Yeah, no. What do you got in that water?” he asks.

“Water,” Krajnc says.

“No, no, how do I know?” he says.

“Trust me,” she says.

Krajnc’s defence lawyers told court that they would argue the activist was acting in the public good, and therefore not breaking the law.

The first day of trial wrapped up with a debate about how to refer to pig waste.

If You Care About Animals, Don’t Support Firework

Every Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, Americans celebrate the birth of
our nation and the new year. Many people don’t realize the fireworks they
light or support by attending events promot…

Every Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, Americans celebrate the birth of
our nation and the new year. Many people don’t realize the fireworks they
light or support by attending events enable a harmful tradition that has no
place in a compassionate society.

When the fireworks end, here is the aftermath of their devastation:

1. *Increased reports of injuries and deaths to animals fleeing from
fireworks* (animals hit and killed by cars, birds flying into buildings,
and wild animals getting trapped, falling, and suffering from respiratory

2. *Massive increases in stray animals at shelters* in the days that follow
as dogs and cats left outside often run and get lost

3. *Birds losing sight of their nests and never returning, leaving
offspring to starve to death*

4. *Frightened and sick domesticated animals*

Animals have much more acute hearing than humans. That’s one of the reasons
my dog used to shake uncontrollably, jump in the shower, and start digging
when he heard fireworks. This is him still hiding even after fireworks
ended because he was so scared.

Animal research indicates animals hear the sound of fireworks at twice the
decibel level as us—analogous to standing at the base of an airplane’s
engine as it takes off. *No form of entertainment can be worth subjecting
animals to such trauma. Take a moral stand. Refuse to attend any events
that light off fireworks. Animals should never suffer so people can
celebrate a holiday.*

Claws for concern: Hillary Clinton is conveniently vague when it comes to animal rights

Claws for concern: Hillary Clinton is conveniently vague when it comes to animal rightsDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waits to speak at a get out the vote event at La Gala in Bowling Green, Ky., Monday, May 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)(Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/photo_master2000 viaShutterstock/Photo montage by Salon)

Americans more than ever are concerned about animal welfare, but it’s hard to suss how much Hillary cares about it

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has wisely caught on to an evolving voter dynamic by crafting a position paper outlining her support for protecting animals. But is she for animal rights or for animal welfare?

In addition to being good policy, courting the animal protection vote is good politics. Americans’ concerns about humane treatment of animals is stronger than ever before.

If this trend continues – and there is no reason to expect that it will not – the issue will likely play an even larger role in future elections.

Evidence of society’s rapidly evolving focus on animal protection abounds. In March,SeaWorld announced that it will stop breeding orcas and will phase out its orca shows, which are its signature attraction. Last month Ringling Brothers put on what it called its last elephant show ever. Last year McDonald’s joined Burger King, General Mills, Sara Lee and several other corporations that have announced they will only use cage-free eggs in their food products. In 2014 South Dakota became the 50th state to upgrade animal cruelty to a potential felony. Only 20 years earlier, all but a few stateshad only misdemeanor penalties for animal cruelty.

A 2015 Gallup poll addressing animal rights may be even more compelling. According to the poll, almost one in three Americans – 32 percent – now believe that “animals deserve the exact same rights as humans to be free from harm and exploitation.” In an identical poll Gallup conducted in 2008 only 25 percent of respondents expressed this view.

Clinton’s position paper does not go this far. It provides a vaguely worded list of mainstream animal welfare concerns such as “strengthening regulation of ‘puppy mills’” and “encouraging farms to raise animals humanely.”


The most interesting aspect of  Clinton’s position paper is its description of the candidate as having “a strong record of standing up for animal rights.” “Animal rights” is a loaded term, and even animal rights supporters cannot agree as to what it means. Some animal rights advocates interpret the term loosely, and view animals as already having some rights because laws exist to protect them.

But other animal rights supporters assert that animals presently do not have rights, because our legal system views animals as property and does not allow them to be represented in judicial proceedings. Highly publicized lawsuits are underway in New York seeking to change this for chimpanzees by demanding that they be considered “legal persons” for purposes of protecting their “bodily liberty” and their “bodily integrity.”

I’m not a humanist, I’m a nonhumanist

With all the patrician talk about who were the original occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, I was planning to write a post about the nonhuman animals being the only inhabitants for millions of years until about 12,000 or 13,000 years ago.

But Marc Bender beat me to it, with the following comment:

“…humans are not indigenous to the Americas. The original inhabitants of the wildlife refuge are, of course, the wildlife.”

Likewise, I was going to inaugurate the word, “nonhumanist” to classify those of us whose ethical values incorporate nonhuman needs and interests. But when I looked it up, I found that “nonhumanistic” is already in use (in reference to those who are Not humanistic).

Meanwhile, that same search produced this related article:

Why I Am Not a Humanist

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 11, 2009 in Ethics,General Atheism

humanismSome people think atheism is synonymous with humanism. If you’re an atheist, you must be a humanist.

Not so. I am an atheist but not a humanist.


Let’s look at at what humanism is. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, humanism is “a rationalistic system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.”

I can already distance myself from this position, but before I say why, let’s get more specific.

The “standard” positions of humanists are summarized in the latest (2003) Humanist Manifesto, which states:

  1. Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
  2. Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.
  3. Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.
  4. Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
  5. Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
  6. Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.

It’s #3 that bothers me. I do not believe that moral values are derived from human desires. I believe moral values are derived from desires, period. To focus on human desires and ignore all other desires in the universe is blatant speciesism.

But can’t I just sign on with humanism, understanding there’s one qualification to be made on point #3?

No, for speciesism is central to humanism. Heck, it’s in the name of the thing. Humanity is the whole point of humanism. Now that is good progress beyond religious ethics, but it’s not progress far enough.

I count humanists as my brothers as sisters. We’re fighting for the same things. Mostly.

But if this post persuades you to cancel membership in a humanist association, please don’t quit activism altogether. Please join another organization that will help you live out your moral values.

That way, we can all work together to make this world a better place, for all of us.


– See more at:

Some Good News and Some Victories for Animals in 2014

An Animal Rights Article from

December 2014

THANK YOU for every single thing you did to make a difference for animals in 2014!

Use this list to honor animal activism, to congratulate yourself for your contribution, and to inspire all of us to do even MORE for animals in 2015. Please SHARE this link!

We know there are many more victories and many more good news items for animals in 2014. And we know there are LOTS of opinions of what “victory” or “good news” mean to different people.

This is a listing of what we posted as good news/victories on our 2014 weekly eNewsletters. Check out past issues here and/or subscribe here.