What is South Carolina Hiding in their Farm Animal and Research Protection Act?Posted by Wendy Cromwell, ALDF's Paralegal on March 18, 2013
|FFA Parade Float|
Recently, I did a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act to the states of Florida and South Carolina. I was looking for information on the monkeys that were exported out of Florida and imported into South Carolina. Florida immediately sent a massive amount of records, but imagine my surprise when I was completely denied any records by the state of South Carolina.
The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (Section 30-4-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws) clearly states in part in their preamble that:
"..it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner …"
But, despite the importance of an open government, a new law passed in June 2012 known as the Farm Animal and Research Protection Act gives the State Veterinarian complete control to exempt all records in their possession from public view.
The Farm Animal and Research Protection Act, which was introduced by Senator Daniel Verdin, states that all information prepared or in possession of the State Veterinarian is exempt from disclosure unless disclosure is necessary to prevent the spread of animal disease or to protect public health.
I wondered if protecting State Veterinarian records was an industry standard or perhaps South Carolina was just now catching up. But, after researching every state’s guidelines, I discovered there are only eight states that have similar exemptions.
Who is this Senator Verdin and why does he care so much about keeping State Veterinarian records a secret? Does his background give insight into his bill proposals and voting habits? Senator Verdin is the son of a veterinarian and the owner of Verdin’s Farm and Garden Center. He was named Legislator of the year by the SC Veterinarian Association in 2006 and by the SC Farm Bureau in 2007, and served as the Agriculture and Natural Resources Adviser in 87-80 and currently serves as the Chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. He was also awarded the highest and most prestigious award from the Future Farmers of America—the "Honorary American FFA degree".
Other laws or amendments the Senator is sponsoring or has sponsored include making sure the South Carolina SPCA or any other organization organized for the same purpose has no arrest powers under the state’s Animal Cruelty Act; making the agritourism business completely free of liability for any injuries or death by participants and amending the Livestock and Poultry Regulations to prohibit local governments from passing laws to protect poultry. You can search Senator Verdin’s sponsored bills and voting record online.
Laws such as the Farm Animal and Research Protection Act do little to protect animals. Denying access to the public records only furthers the potential for abuse to the animals as there is no way to know what is happening to the monkeys that are coming into the state. Are they going to zoos, being sold to the public or perhaps being sent to research labs? Right now, we just don’t know and it does not appear that we will know anything in the foreseeable future.