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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

In Memoriam: Dr. Dean Wyatt, Animal Welfare Whistleblower and Food Safety Advocate

Food Integrity Campaign | November 16, 2010

Government Accountability Project mourns the passing of our client, Dr. Dean Wyatt, who succumbed to brain cancer on November 11, 2010 at the age of 59.

Dr. Wyatt came to Government Accountability Project roughly three years ago for legal assistance. During the course of our representation, we came to know Dr. Wyatt not only as a client but also as a friend. It was truly our honor and privilege to work with a man of such tremendous courage, conviction, and commitment to the truth.

As a USDA Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Wyatt blew the whistle on inhumane handling at two slaughterhouses, which led to criminal prosecutions. Dr. Wyatt initially suffered intense retaliation for speaking out on these incidents of misconduct. However, after he risked his career by refusing to remain silent, NGOs, Congress, and even the USDA itself came to view Dr. Wyatt’s insight as essential for identifying and resolving issues of humane handling, food safety, and whistleblower protection. By the time of his death, Dr. Wyatt had made the transition from marginalized whistleblower to respected expert.

Dr. Wyatt was a gracious and selfless individual who, like so many whistleblowers, had an unwavering commitment to doing the right and just thing. He firmly believed that it was his duty as a public servant to enforce humane slaughter laws and that his role as a Public Health Veterinarian demanded that he work to reduce the needless suffering of food animals. Government Accountability Project was honored to assist him in his efforts to do so.

Albert Schweitzer reminded us to “think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” Dr. Wyatt challenged Congress and USDA officials to do just that when he spoke out before a House Subcommittee on inadequate enforcement of humane handling laws. In his testimony, he implored Congress to stop overlooking humane handling and the field inspectors, like him, who are ignored when they report it. At the hearing, graphic video of unchecked egregious animal abuse taken by an undercover Humane Society investigator was shown that substantiated Dr. Wyatt’s claims.

Not only a stalwart defender of humane handling practices, Dr. Wyatt took a stand for food safety. He worked with Government Accountability Project along with other food safety organizations to bring attention to food safety inspection issues as well as inadequate testing protocols for foodborne pathogens. His disclosures regarding food safety have been cited by multiple media outlets and used as advocacy tools to advance food safety legislation and reforms. A courageous whistleblower and friend, Dr. Wyatt never stopped fighting for greater transparency and accountability within the system.

In our work, we are honored to work with individuals who sacrifice their own interests for the health and safety of others. Dr. Wyatt was such an individual. Humble and gracious, Dr. Wyatt never hesitated to thank Government Accountability Project for its assistance. But indeed, it was our pleasure and gift to be of counsel.

Government Accountability Project extends its sincerest condolences to his family and friends.