WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), lead sponsors of the bipartisan KITTEN Act, today applauded an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the agency would end its taxpayer-funded experiments on kittens. Previously, the agency had infected kittens with a parasite to perform toxoplasmosis research, then slaughtered and disposed of the kittens once the animals’ research use was exhausted.
“The USDA’s decision to slaughter kittens after they were used in research was an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and it’s past time to end it,” Senator Merkley said. “The USDA made the right decision today, and I applaud them for their willingness to change course. It’s a good day for our four-legged friends across America.”
“I commend the USDA for their decision to end this type of testing on kittens. They listened to the people and responded appropriately to our concerns,” said Congressman Panetta. “This is how our institutions, our government, and our democracy should and must work. I thank the USDA, the White Coat Waste Project, former Rep. Mike Bishop, the cosponsors of my bill, and Senator Merkley for their work on our legislation and working to do what is right.”
Since 1970, the USDA has spent $650,000 each year to infect and later kill kittens in its Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. The lab has bred up to 100 kittens per year. Once they were 2 months old, the kittens were fed parasite-infected raw meat. Their feces were then collected and parasitic eggs were harvested for use in other experiments. Once the eggs were collected, the 3-month-old kittens were killed and incinerated.
The KITTEN (Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now) Act would have required that the Secretary of Agriculture end the use of kittens and cats in any USDA experiment that unnecessarily hurts the animals. Merkley also secured language in the Senate Appropriations Committee agricultural bill that urges USDA to consider alternative testing methods to infecting and killing kittens.