new bill would a practice of an Agriculture Department study in which 221 cats were killed in the past five years.
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for several straight decades now — with taxpayer money — tested the effects of a certain parasite in meat served for cats, at the conclusion of which the cats were usually killed even when they were healthy.
This has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of cats over time. Even worse, researched underreported (possibly intentionally) the amount of pain the cats were subjected to, as a result of which the project went through a less stringent ethics review by the USDA.
The study, some parts of which were originally secret, was discovered after the public interest group White Coat Waste Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI8)
What the bill does
The KITTEN Act would ban the use of cats in scientific or medical experiments that cause the animals pain. The full name is the Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would help prevent unneeded cruelty to helpless animals.
“I’m shocked and disturbed that for decades the USDA — the very organization charged with enforcing animal welfare laws — has been unnecessarily killing hundreds of kittens in expensive and inefficient lab experiments,” Rep. Bishop said in a press release.
“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.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that in this particular study, cats were the only scientifically applicable animal, and that nonfatal options such as adoption posed additional risks.
“Researchers are pursuing methods to safeguard the water, meats and produce that this parasite contaminates, and are advancing progress towards a lifesaving vaccine,” the USDA’s Chavonda Jacobs-Young wrote.
Alternatives such as allowing the infected cats up for adoption “still presents a public health risk that is too high for us to consider rehoming of [the] research cat population at this time,” Jacobs-Young added.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted 25 bipartisan House cosponsors: 19 Democrats and six Republicans. It awaits a possible vote in the House Agriculture Committee.
The Senate’s 2019 agriculture spending bill, which recently passed unanimously, contains language urging the USDA to end such painful experiments on cats. However, that language is not legally binding, as this House bill would be.