Raccoons at an Iowa fur farm inspected by the Agriculture Department in 2017 were found to be suffering in a overheated metal barn. A thermometer shows the temperature (98.4 degrees) and the heat index (117.2 degrees) in part of the structure. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The Aug. 23 front-page article “On animal safety, USDA takes industry-friendly approach” painted a disturbing picture of a federal agency failing in its responsibility to protect animals, with enforcement that is lax at best and willfully irresponsible at worst. While the article focused on caged raccoons neglected in Iowa’s merciless heat, Agriculture Department policies allowing such neglect and abuse have similarly severe consequences for a range of animals the agency is charged with protecting, including dogs suffering in unchecked commercial breeding facilities.

Senior USDA officials overruling their own veterinarians at the behest of agriculture industry interests is another shocking indication of systemic failure. To make matters worse, since 2017, the USDA has routinely withheld critical information from the public, heavily redacting inspection records and reframing instances of neglect and cruelty as “teachable moments” — instead of the actionable abuses they are — to avoid responsible documentation. If the USDA can’t or won’t perform this legally prescribed and taxpayer-funded role, Congress must demand it. Our dedication to ensuring the USDA remains accountable to both the law and the voiceless animals it is obliged to protect speaks volumes about our values as a nation.

Matt Bershadker, New York

The writer is president and chief executive
of the American Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals.

It truly appears that cruelty and viciousness are the hallmarks of the Trump administration, whether it concerns defenseless animals, people of color, women, religious minorities or the LBGTQ community. It made me ill and angry to read of the callousness and disregard for the creatures we should be protecting against abuse to foster financial gains for big business and corporations that grow rich from the suffering of animals.

This horrible situation began early in this administration when the Agriculture Department cut off the availability of those in the animal rights community to monitor circuses, zoos and research facilities.

I hope every major group charged with protecting animals begins lawsuits immediately against the heartless activities of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the USDA.

Peggy M. Spates, Hyattsville

Read more letters to the editor.