Compelling the FDA To Produce Factory Egg Farm Inspection Reports
Animal Legal Defense Fund v U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit to compel the FDA to produce inspection reports of factory egg farms without censoring important information about the hen population and living conditions.
In 2012, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to compel the Food and Drug Administration to produce Establishment Inspection Reports of several factory egg farms in Texas without censoring important information about the hen population and living conditions.
We’d previously requested these documents in 2011 in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the Animal Legal Defense Fund the inspection reports, it censored critical information about the hen population and living conditions. This information is necessary to understand the welfare of the animals as well as the risk of disease outbreaks that affect public health and safety.
In 2013, the Northern District of California ruled that the FDA must provide the number of birds per cage but could withhold the rest of the contested information. The Animal Legal Defense Fund appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where we argued we were entitled to a trial to resolve the factual disputes in the case.
The Ninth Circuit ultimately heard the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s appeal en banc, and set groundbreaking precedent by providing less deference to district courts that resolve factual disputes in FOIA cases on summary judgment without a trial.
Applying that new standard, the Ninth Circuit ordered that the case be sent back to the district court for a trial. That trial occurred in April 2018.
On January 23, 2019 the district court ordered the FDA to disclose the total number of hen houses, the total number of floors per hen house, the total number of cage rows per hen house, and the total number of cage tiers per hen house for the factory farms at issue – nearly all of the challenged information the FDA withheld. Several months later, the FDA filed an appeal. Due to a new Supreme Court ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated this judgment and remanded the case to the District Court in 2020.
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Petition for Rulemaking
Rise for Animals v. USDA