Senate Republicans proved there is something to hide by slamming the EPA last week for releasing information on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to environmental groups.  Senator David Vitter (R-LA) along with other Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee believe that the EPA released too much information about CAFOs, non-sustainable, inhumane big businesses, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last year.

The Republican Senators sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the EPA, Bob Perciasepe, on Thursday, demanding that the EPA brief the Environment and Public Works Committee on the information given to environmental groups. In the letter, they claim that the EPA demonstrated “an offensive abuse of agency discretion.”

But while proponents of big agriculture always try to evoke an image of small farmers and livestock producers, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, are big business. Industrial-sized livestock operations can house anywhere from hundreds to millions of animals, kept in small and confined spaces. These factory farms perpetuate the severely inhumane treatment of animals, such as cramming pregnant pigs into gestation crates.

Often, the animals are confined indoors for at least 45 days a year in unsanitary conditions, where disease is easily spread, thereby leading to human health issues. And CAFOs produce a huge amount of waste; urine and feces are mixed with water and placed in “liquid manure lagoons,” which can leak into the ground and pollute watersheds, damaging communities and family farmers.

With so much to hide, it is obvious why there has been an uproar concerning the EPA’s release of CAFO information to environmental groups. It’s not small farmers but big businesses that are being protected by a lack of accountability. Big agriculture needs more transparency, not less of it.

Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.