Following backlash from a slew of lawmakers, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Tuesday that the department will stop experimenting on and euthanizing cats, a practice that has cost taxpayers $22 million, and Republicans are applauding the move.
In a press release, the agency made it clear that its Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research on toxoplasmosis has been “redirected” and that the use of cats has been “discontinued and will not be reinstated.” Furthermore, the 14 remaining cats will be adopted out to USDA employees.
An ARS administrator explained:
“Food safety research in ARS is of paramount importance for agriculture and the public we serve. We are continually assessing our research and priorities and aligning our resources to the problems of highest national priority. We are excited for the next chapter of work for these scientists and this laboratory.”
The news comes after the USDA faced backlash for the experiments — which involve infecting kittens with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, collecting their stool samples for a few weeks and then euthanizing them on the taxpayer’s dime — and for claiming the cats are unsafe to adopt out despite expert opinion.
KITTEN LAB UPDATE: @USDA just announced its toxoplasmosis research has been redirected & use of cats as part of any research in ARS labs has been discontinued & will not be reinstated. Remaining 14 cats will be adopted out. @ABC7News #7OYS @WhiteCoatWaste @NEAVS pic.twitter.com/dN2ll4eP7N
— Scott Taylor ABC 7 (@ScottTaylorTV) April 2, 2019
It also comes on the heels of additional criticism after taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project uncovered the department also purchased animals from foreign meat markets to then use in cannibalistic experiments involving the cats, as IJR Red reported.
Republicans in Congress who have been vocal critics of the experiments are celebrating the department’s decision to end the practice. In a statement to IJR, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) praised the move:
“With all the awful reports coming out, it was clear that Americans opposed USDA’s cruel testing on kittens. This is a decisive victory against government animal abuse and wasteful spending. We’ve worked closely with advocates and scientists to stop the USDA’s abuse and I am grateful to Secretary Perdue for his leadership in ensuring no more kittens are ever used in research and that the last cats remaining at USDA can be adopted. Now, other agencies need to follow suit and put a permanent end to abusive and painful animal testing.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also reacted to the news in a statement to IJR:
“Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t be funding government kitten abuse and I’m proud to have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, my constituents, and advocates with White Coat Waste Project to bring the USDA’s disturbing cat experimentation program to an end. Secretary Perdue and his team at USDA deserve enormous credit for their swift and decisive action to stop this needless kitten testing and place the surviving cats into loving homes. I will continue to work to ensure the VA and other agencies still testing on cats, dogs and other animals follow the USDA’s example and modernize their research programs as well.”
Additionally, other lawmakers expressed support for the decision:
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.
— Rep. Jimmy Panetta (@RepJimmyPanetta) April 2, 2019
Today is a good day for our four-legged friends across America! After recent action from our bipartisan #KITTENAct coalition, the @USDA announced today they are ending their experiments that kill kittens. Thank you to everyone who urged the USDA to end this horrific practice. pic.twitter.com/4P82d6qAzE
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 2, 2019
I'm proud to have worked with my colleagues to put an end to the @USDA's wasteful and cruel taxpayer-funded kitten testing. This is a major victory for kittens, cats, and taxpayers. https://t.co/GW3up2NxsV
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) April 2, 2019
Anthony Bellotti, the president and founder of White Coat Waste Project, told IJR the USDA’s decision is a “historic victory for taxpayers and animals.”
“After 3,000-plus kittens killed and $22 million squandered, we applaud the USDA for its wise decision to permanently end its taxpayer-funded kitten experiments and adopt out the survivors,” he said.
“We’re elated that after a year of intense campaigning by White Coat Waste Project and our 2 million members and supporters, alongside leadership from scores of Republican and Democrat Congress members, the USDA’s kitten slaughterhouse has finally been relegated to the litterbox of history,” he added.
The progress follows efforts from congressional Republicans to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on various animal experiments across several federal agencies. As IJR Red reported last week, their criticism has the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rethinking its controversial experiments on dogs.