The United States Department of Agriculture has finally called a halt to “the controversial practice of laboratory test research using cats,” CNBC reports, including the horrifying “cannibal cat” experiments, where dog and cat meat obtained from Asian meat markets was fed to captive felines to study the impact of food-borne parasites.
The White Coat Waste project — a bipartisan effort to cut back on government funding of animal research — led the way in outlawing the practice of using cats and kittens in government-sponsored science experiments, particularly those designed to infect cats with toxoplasmosis. “Once the cats were infected and the parasite harvested, the felines were put down,” NPR reports, resulting in hundreds of cats being killed annually.
White Coat Waste released a bombshell report on the subject earlier this year, revealing that part of the toxoplasmosis research involved “the USDA purchasing hundreds of cats and dogs from shelters and meat markets overseas, killing them, and then feeding them to cats in labs in the United States,” in order to study “the prevalence of toxoplasmosis around the world,” according to the Huffington Post.
Last month, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle introduced the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act (or KITTEN Act) of 2019, in order to end the cruel practice of “hundreds of kittens bred, fed parasite-infected raw meat, and then killed annually” — a practice that sponsors of the bill say cost taxpayers a whopping $650,000 per year and “put the lives of innocent kittens in danger.”
Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), a co-sponsor of the KITTEN Act, commended the USDA for taking decisive action Tuesday and ending the practice without being forced to by Congressional decree.
“I commend the USDA for their decision to end this type of testing on kittens,” Panetta told CNBC. “They listened to the people and responded appropriately to our concerns. This is how our institutions, our government, and our democracy should and must work.”
“With all the awful reports coming out, it was clear that Americans opposed USDA’s cruel testing on kittens,” Republican Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), another co-sponsor of the bill said in a statement. “This is a decisive victory against government animal abuse and wasteful spending.”
The USDA says that their toxoplasmosis research did yield some results. Since the experiments began in the mid-1980s, the incidence of toxoplasmosis in the United States has dropped by 50%, due, at least in part, to the USDA’s research. But they also admitted that the usefulness of experimenting on cats has waned, and that they haven’t done much with test felines since mid-2018.
In a statement posted to their website, the USDA says that “toxoplasmosis research has been redirected and the use of cats as part of any research protocol in any ARS laboratory has been discontinued and will not be reinstated.”
That reportedly includes shuttering a so-called “kitten slaughterhouse” that killed more than 3,000 cats. Fourteen cats remain in the program, and the USDA says those cats will be given health and behavioral checks and then cleared for adoption.
White Coat Waste issued a statement Wednesday declaring victory over the wasteful government program.