Last night, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer interviewed a USDA inspector – whose voice was distorted and image revealed only in shadow – to discuss the agency's plan to deregulate poultry inspection by expanding a pilot program known as HIMP.
The inspector, a whistleblower who brought concerns regarding HIMP to FIC, told ABC why the proposal – which speeds up the rate birds move through processing plants and shifts oversight duties to industry – is a terrible idea.
“You just kind of sit and watch them fly by,” said the inspector. “We’re not inspecting anymore. We’re kind of monitoring. We joke. We pat them on the butt and let them keep on going.”
Watch the full story below:
What does it tell you about the USDA when its own employees must hide their identity in order to critique an agency's proposed plan? To speak out about threats to food safety? This inspector was handled by ABC like someone in the witness protection program would have been. Like someone exposing mob wrongdoing, or speaking out against an awful tyrant.
Unfortunately, retaliation against individuals who expose problems at their place of work is all too commonplace. And FIC knows first-hand how USDA staffers who raise concerns are retaliated against for doing so.
A former USDA veterinarian, the late Dr. Dean Wyatt, revealed to FIC how he was transferred and his professional reputation damaged after he exposed gross violations of humane handling at two different slaughterhouses. FIC also blogged earlier this year about two former USDA inspectors who said the agency “tarnished” their careers when they refused to silence concerns about moldy applesauce being “reprocessed” and shipped into commerce.
Legal whistleblower protections for federal employees, including USDA inspectors, remain horribly inadequate. That's why, in addition to legal advice and other services, the Government Accountability Project gives these truth-tellers the option of anonymous disclosure. Big props to World News with Diane Sawyer for working with FIC and the whistleblower to retain anonymity while bringing to light a real threat to public health.
Please sign our petition calling on the USDA to listen to its own inspectors and reject HIMP!
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.