Two members of congress are leading the fight to stop the breeding, testing and euthanization of cats in government sponsored studies.
Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Bishop introduced legislation Friday that would ban testing that subjects young cats to “potentially painful or stressful procedures, including pain or stress that may be mitigated by anesthetics, analgesics, or tranquilizer drugs.”
The bipartisan “Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act of 2018” or KITTEN Act, co-sponsored by Bishop and California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta, comes after increased attention to one feline-focused Department of Agriculture study that has been going on for decades.
Bishop called attention to the study that requires researchers to infect hundreds of cats every year with a parasite called Taxoplasma gondii and study the results. After the experiments are completed, the cats are euthanized, but Bishop says the animals are not treated humanely.
The pain the cats in the study have to endure has been “significantly underreported,” Bishop wrote in a letter requesting more information from the USDA. Because the researchers didn’t accurately measure the amount of “pain and distress” the procedures caused the kittens, the project “underwent a less stringent review and researchers were not required to seek alternatives to reduce or replace animal use.”
According to White Coat Waste Project, a taxpayer watchdog group that tracks government animal studies, the USDA breeds around 100 cats for the study each year, infects them with T. gondii parasites to study their feces, then incinerates the animals before they reach three months of age. The USDA spends around $650,000 on the study each year.
“Sickening and killing kittens with taxpayers’ money is un-American and we’re grateful to Congressmen Bishop and Panetta for their swift and decisive bipartisan action to end this waste and abuse,” said Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy for White Coat Waste Project.
The USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, which conducts the study rebutted some of Bishop’s assertions in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. ARS also defended euthanizing cats, since the animals are infected with the T. gondii parasites for the tests.
The T. gondii parasites do infect humans, causing an infection known as toxoplasmosis which produces flu-like symptoms. Some studies also suggest that the parasite, which affects around 10 million people globally, also contributes to the spread of disease asymptomatically.
“Our goal is to reduce the spread of toxoplasmosis,” ARS’ statement said. “Adopting laboratory cats could, unfortunately, undermine that goal, potentially causing severe infections, especially with unborn children or those with immunodeficiencies.”
ARS further noted that as a result of its study, scientists have been able to distinguish between T. gondii “oocysts” — the cysts which form in the host animal or human where the parasite breeds — that come from meat and those that originate in cat feces. Through the research, they found that 75 percent of all infections thirds of T. gondii exposure is from food and water contaminated by cat feces.
“This finding upended the conventional thinking that had proposed that meat-borne toxoplasmosis was the primary route of exposure,” ARS said.
“Any government research program like this one that’s been funded since the Nixon administration needs to be put under the microscope, especially when it involves using kittens as disposable test tubes in harmful tests that most taxpayers oppose,” Bishop said in a statement.
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