MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The government is ending its controversial research experiments on kittens after a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Florida Congressman Brian Mast, R-Fla, was filed in March describing the practice as “taxpayer-funded kitten slaughter.”
The KITTEN ACT, or “Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act,” involved parasite-related experiments on cats and kittens in U.S. Department of Agriculture research on the foodborne illness toxoplasmosis.
Kittens were used, according to the USDA, because they are the only host in which the Toxoplasma Gondii parasite can complete its life cycle and produce eggs. The organism causes toxoplasmosis which is “considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the U.S,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The KITTEN ACT is aimed at finding more humane alternatives to the USDA practice of euthanizing the infected kittens which animal advocates say can be treated with antibiotics and adopted out.
Tuesday, the USDA announced its “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.”
“With all the awful reports coming out, it was clear that Americans opposed USDA’s cruel testing on kittens. This is a decisive victory against government animal abuse and wasteful spending,” said Rep. Mast in a released statement. “We’ve worked closely with advocates and scientists to stop the USDA’s abuse and I am grateful to Secretary Perdue for his leadership in ensuring no more kittens are ever used in research and that the last cats remaining at USDA can be adopted. Now, other agencies need to follow suit and put a permanent end to abusive and painful animal testing.”
The USDA said no cats were infected with toxoplasmosis or euthanized since September 2018 and the 14 healthy cats they still have at their Maryland facility are in the process of being adopted by USDA employees.
Anthony Bellotti, the founder of the watchdog organization White Coat Waste Project, which combats wasteful government spending on animal testing, called the move “a historic victory for taxpayers and animals.” He added that he was “elated” that “the USDA’s kitten slaughterhouse has finally been relegated to the litterbox of history.”
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate estimated that the USDA has spent $650,000 of taxpayer dollars since 1970 to infect kittens with parasite-infected raw meat and then later kill them.
Rep. Mast has also been leading the charge to end painful and unnecessary testing on dogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.