You’re probably aware of the dog and cat meat trade in some Asian countries and animal welfare advocates’ efforts to end it, but if you’re a taxpayer in the United States, you may not be aware that you may have helped to fund this trade.
According to a new report by the nonprofit White Coast Waste Project (WCW) and former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian and researcher Dr. Jim Keen, the USDA bought dead cats from these markets—and then fed their brains, hearts and tongues to live, healthy kittens in a Maryland laboratory from 2003 to 2015.
That’s not all: The USDA also purchased dead dogs from animal shelters in Brazil and fed their same body parts to the kittens.
The purpose of this “kitten cannibalism”—which is what Justin Goodman, the WCW’s vice president for advocacy and public policy, appropriately called it—was to study the parasite that causes the disease toxoplasmosis in humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the parasite is a major cause of death from foodborne illness in the U.S. People can also become infected with it after accidentally swallowing cat feces.
People with healthy immune systems rarely experience any symptoms of the disease, which is why the USDA’s study makes no sense.
Human bodies, of course, are not the same as those of cats, and most people (hopefully) don’t become infected with toxoplasmosis after eating dog and cat body parts. Besides, as Goodman and Keen contend, it’s unnecessary to infect and kill kittens, since scientists can work with samples they’re already collected.
Goodman said this “useless” experiment “highlights the disturbing lack of accountability and transparency” at the USDA. Although the study allegedly ended five years ago, because of that lack of transparency, Goodman said it could still be happening.
Keen, who left the USDA in 2015 after exposing its mistreatment of livestock and who now volunteers with the WCW, discovered this study when he was looking through research papers published by the USDA and its affiliates. “We just thought we’d find routine experiments,” he told the Washington Post. “We never knew this other stuff was going on.”
He told NBC News he didn’t see the logic.
Along with “kitten cannibalism,” U.S. taxpayers fund other cruel tests performed on cats at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Animal Parasitic Disease Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. According to NBC News, the laboratory uses cats because they’re the only host animal that can produce parasitic eggs. At least 3,000 cats have suffered and died in these lab experiments that began in 1982.
Researchers breed kittens in the lab, then force them to eat raw meat tainted with the parasite T. Gondii. After scientists harvest the parasitic eggs from the kittens’ feces to use in other experiments, they euthanize the kittens and incinerate their bodies instead of treating them and adopting them out.
KITTEN Act Would End These Horrible Tests
To stop these tests, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) reintroduced the KITTEN (Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now) Act to Congress. “The USDA’s decision to slaughter kittens after they are used in research is an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and we need to end it,” Merkley said in a press release.
DEEPLY disturbing that @USDA has been purchasing cats and dogs from notoriously inhumane meat markets in Asia, then feeding the meat to animals they’re experimenting on. We can advance scientific discovery while treating animals humanely — we need the #KITTENAct NOW. https://t.co/0WylYLtcHk
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) March 19, 2019
The 2018 Farm Bill that Congress passed last year included the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, which banned the slaughter, trade and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption in the United States. That the USDA supported that trade overseas should hopefully make the passage of the KITTEN Act a no-brainer.
As the WCW’s Goodman put it, the USDA’s horrific cat experiments should be “relegated to the litter box of history.”
- Please join over 270,000 people who have signed this petition telling the USDA to stop killing kittens.
- Sign this petition urging Congress to pass the KITTEN Act to end this cruel practice once and for all.
Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.
Photo credit: Alexas_Fotos
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