DC Circuit Court Affirms Denial of Primate Import Data to PETA

A unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of primate importation data to PETA.  PETA requested primate importation data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2014.  In response to PETA’s FOIA request, the CDC notified ten affected importers, seven of which objected to the disclosure of the information to PETA. The CDC ultimately withheld information about the number of nonhuman primates in each shipment, the size of their crates, and the airline carrier used under Exemption 4 of the FOIA. FOIA Exemption 4 protects from disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”

The CDC argued that disclosing the information to PETA would harm the importers, as information about the number of primates imported, the size of the crates and the airline carrier used is maintained by the importers as confidential and the release may result in competitive harm, including disruption of supply routes.

As NABR members know, animal rights organizations, including PETA have long targeted airlines, in an attempt to pressure them into refusing to ship nonhuman primates for research.  The Court of Appeals recognized the risks associated with shipment noting that “knowing in the abstract which airlines transport nonhuman primates is very different than knowing which importers have relationships with which airline carriers, and which airline carriers are willing to transport which species of nonhuman primate along which routes and from which countries.”

The D.C. Circuit Court upheld CDC’s denial of the information to PETA and the Court of Appeals has now also affirmed that decision.

This case highlights the importance of understanding the FOIA and its impact on research.  NABR encourages all members to ensure they have a reviewed the FOIA Guide, Responding to FOIA Requests: Facts and Resources, which was jointly produced by NABR, FASEB and SfN.