The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is secretly killing thousands of kittens, according to newly released documents.
At two months old, the kittens, held at a lab in Beltsville, Maryland, are deliberately infected with toxoplasmosis. The infection causes depression, weight loss, seizures, jaundice, diarrhea and vomiting among other symptoms. The toxoplasma parasite is then harvested from the kittens’ feces in order to be used in other experiments. The kittens are then killed and incinerated.
Animal rights group White Coats Waste Project (WCWP) obtained the documents detailing the experiments in a Freedom of Information Act request.
“I think most taxpayers would be alarmed and disgusted to learn that for decades they have essentially been funding a USDA kitten slaughter house here in Beltsville right outside the Beltway,” WCWP vice president Justin Goodman told The Independent.
“It appears that this project uses kittens as test tubes,” wrote Mike Bishop (R-Michigan) in a letter to USDA head Sonny Perdue. “Put simply, it creates life to destroy life.”
Bishop was shocked by what the Maryland lab was doing to two-month old kittens and expressed his disappointment in the USDA. The USDA, however, defended the practice saying that cat feces was the main vector the parasite uses to infect humans.
The USDA said that efforts were taken to minimize the number of two-month old kittens butchered by their lab and that estimates given have been an overestimation.
“USDA does not seek adoptions of these cats because of the risk the cats could pose to their adoptive families,” their statement continued. “Our goal is to reduce the spread of toxoplasmosis. Adopting these cats could, unfortunately, undermine that goal, potentially causing severe infections.”
Cats have often been used as test subjects in labs, most recently in studying the feline version of HIV in hopes of finding a cure. The “father of animal experimentation,” Claude Bernard, vivisected stray cats in the 19th century to study the pancreas.
“The physiologist… does not hear the animals’ cries of pain. He is blind to the blood that flows. He sees nothing but his idea, and organisms which conceal from him the secrets he is resolved to discover,” wrote Bernard.
But according to PETA, many if not most cats find their way to laboratories after prolonged homelessness. The breeding of kittens to infect them with a parasite, incubate and harvest the parasite and then slaughter and burn the cat seems particularly and uniquely troubling.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.