Santa Cruz Biotechnology, the second largest supplier of antibodies on a global scale, has a rich history of atrocious animal welfare standards at its central California ranch. The firm houses thousands of goats and rabbits, from which it harvests antibodies for use in testing laboratories. However, during the facility’s latest federal inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), officials found no animal-welfare violations … it also found no animals!

According to reports, all 2,471 rabbits and 3,202 goats mysteriously vanished from the facility, just in time for its latest inspection. This is all while the biotech company prepares to testify in USDA hearings on multiple animal-welfare violations, which include abysmal lack of veterinary care of the facility’s goats.

A History of Animal Neglect

Santa Cruz Biotechnology is currently the subject of three USDA complaints, mainly stemming from evidence that the company severely mistreated its animals. According to The New Yorker, the company has paid thousands of dollars in fines for dozens of citations levied by the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act since 2003. USDA officials said they found a goat that had been bitten by a coyote but was not receiving any treatment for pain, a lame goat that was unable to reach its food, and a sick goat lying in the sun on a 90-degree day. In 2013, the USDA also reported that the company was hiding a barn that housed more than 800 goats for more than two years.

Most recently, a goat in distress was killed July 7, 2015, with a bolt pistol to the forehead without euthanasia because a veterinarian was not available. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, in the same 2015 complaint, it was recorded that the sickly goats had a variety of ailments ranging from anemia, weight loss (one goat weighing just 29 pounds), dermatitis, leg injuries, respiratory problems, and a rattlesnake bite.

How Could This Abuse Go on For so Long?

With so many violations over the past 13 years, it is deplorable that action hasn’t been taken sooner to shut this facility down. Rather than forcing this extremely profitable company to follow the law, Santa Cruz Biotechnology was repeatedly given a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue mistreating its animals.

In a report by Nature, animal law expert David Favre explained that the lack of action on the part of the USDA is unacceptable, “The department’s whole attitude is ‘we’ll give them time to fix it rather than impose punishment” “There’s no excuse for a company that size not to be able to comply with the Animal Welfare Act.”

The Future of Biotech’s Animals

For the missing goats and rabbits, their fate is unclear.  Some experts believe that the animals have all been killed since it is unlikely that thousands of animals bred for labs would be able to find a buyer. We can only hope that these animals are being held by someone who actually cares about their well-being. No company should be allowed to abuse and kill animals in such cruel ways and walk away unpunished.

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) is now calling on the USDA to revoke the lab’s license for its numerous violations. You can take action and sign the organization’s petition here.