Watchdog Sues to Expose Secret Government Kitten Killing

Thousands of cats have been killed over 50 years of experiments. Why is the USDA denying feline fatality FOIA requests?



The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been slapped with a lawsuit after allegedly blocking information requested by the White Coat Waste Project, an animal rights group and taxpayer watchdog. The information involves experiments that have killed thousands of cats at the agency's Maryland facility over the past few decades.

Back in May, White Coat Waste Project uncovered the deadly kitten experiments the USDA has been conducting for nearly half a century at a secret laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Documents obtained by the group show the department has been breeding around 100 kittens a year for almost 50 years just to infect them with a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that can lead to miscarriages and birth defects in humans and is a leading cause of death from foodborne illness.

The department collects the kittens' feces for two to three weeks and then simply euthanizes them with a shot of ketamine to the heart—even though the USDA admits, and experts on the matter appear to agree, that the cats have shed the parasite and will not transmit it to humans or other animals.

Now, White Coat Waste Project claims the department is blocking its Freedom of Information Act request for additional info on the research, including veterinary records for the almost 3,000 cats and kittens used to date. The group filed the request in June and says it has yet to hear back. The department, it says, is violating the Freedom of Information Act "by failing to provide the materials, or even acknowledge the request," and is continuing to "wrongfully withhold the requested records."

"Uncle Sam essentially kept this project a secret for half-a-century," says Anthony Bellotti, founder and president of White Coat Waste Project, "but now the cat is out of the bag, and we won't let the USDA go dark on Americans again."

In an unsigned email sent to The Washington Post, the USDA's press office says it "cannot comment on pending litigation."

In the meantime, the department has come under fire for its refusal to adopt out the cats and kittens used for the experiments. Members of Congress have also introduced bipartisan legislation, the KITTEN Act, to put an end to these deadly tests by defunding them, as well as the FACT Act, which aims to improve reporting by various government agencies on efforts being taken to replace animal tests with faster, less expensive, and more effective alternative tests.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has unanimously passed its 2019 agriculture spending bill, which includes language urging the USDA to end its kitten experiments and to adopt out the cats. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), who introduced the FACT Act, is also leading a new bipartisan effort to obtain more information about USDA's kitten testing and to secure adoptions for the kittens.

"Taxpayers deserve to know what kinds of federally funded lab experiments animals are subjected to and are being paid for at taxpayer expense," Calvert tells Reason.

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  1. Anyone who kills kittens harbors awful secrets.

    1. Who the hell would take that job?

      Key Duties: Pick up kittens one by one and kill them by injecting ketamine into their hearts. Flexible schedule.

      1. Must be able to lift 50 lbs of kittens and feed them into an industrial juicer.

        1. I’m sure I’m going to hell because I laughed out loud at this. Cat lover that I am.

      2. I don’t know, but this their jam.

      3. They are called bird lovers. Of course the government could probably get this sort of person to do it for free.

        I once heard an academic psychologist denounce the dark triad of bed wetting, animal torture, and fire setting. They were very angry about the animal torture part, uncomfortable with the pyromaniac portion, but totally okay with the idea that bed wetting was evidence of sociopathy. They even used an example involving cats. I was not shocked to learn that the guy was really into bird watchin.

      4. i’ll take it

    2. My grandpa who was the nicest guy used to control the barn cats by knocking the kittens heads against a fence post.

      1. Farmer and cats sometimes have a… complicated relationship. Still though, don’t know how people do that.

  2. Nothing left to cut.

  3. I formerly worked in a medical center that employed a scientist who performed animal experiments. It was generally known but never discussed or publicized in any way. I understand the need, but could never do it myself. She was a rather cold bitch; I assume that is an occupational requirement.

    1. I knew a guy who did lab experiments on mice. Had to kill them (he said) by cutting their heads off with scissors because drugs would invalidate the experiments. I too understand the need for animal experiments, but I sure couldn’t do them. And to kill kittens that could be adopted out? No way Jos

      1. Mice are surprisingly cute. I once dated a girl that had a pet snake. One time, we got live mice instead of the regular frozen ones, and ended up with two pet mice.

        1. That poor snake was tired of frozen dinners and was denied a fresh meal.

          1. Snake said, “Rats!”

    2. I live near Argonne National Labs. We hear stories that would curl your bones. Truckloads of sacrificial beagles, for example. The whole animal testing industry operates in silence.

      1. I know people who work at Argonne. I’ve worked with toxoplasma researchers who’ve probably drawn data from these cats or employed similar facilities businesses. Both my wife and I have worked in mouse core facilities as undergrads.

        There’s a little bit of the whole animal industry operating in silence there’s also a little bit of people preferring to think that their chicken just magically appears, shrink wrapped in plastic. ou don’t generally start a conversation with “I euthanized half a dozen animals today.” in polite company unless you’re pretty sure they’re understanding/sympathetic. That said, 3,000 cats in 50 yrs.? If they were eating them, that would be approximately one person eating one cat per week. Two families of four probably go through the same amount of cattle in the same amount of time.

        1. But cats! Cute little cats!

  4. I understand you don’t want to talk about euthanizing the kitties. But, this has been going on for 50 years. What studies, papers, reports or even raw data has come out of this?

    1. Also a good question that should be answerable by querying a public records database.

    2. But, this has been going on for 50 years. What studies, papers, reports or even raw data has come out of this?

      Somehow, experts just know that cats shed the parasite and will not transmit it. If you’ve ever seen it, it’s a really weird collective cognition thing.

    3. Need 50 more years to be sure about the results.
      But we know for sure about climate change. That is settled.

      1. of course the democrats/progressives have stated that.

  5. On the other hand, they’re just cats.

    1. If you don’t think the cats would *enjoy* murdering you if the roles were reversed, you’ve never realistically interacted with a cat. Apes aren’t highly predatory nor equipped and wired for exclusive predatory behavior the way cats are.

      1. Tearing out your innards and eating you is how a cat says “I love you.”

        1. Yeah. I remember playing with my cat, back when I had one. She’d roll over on her back, I’d scratch her head, she’d grab my hand with her forepaws, and use her hind claws to “gut” my forearm. It was… surprisingly cute, but yeah, she was a vicious little murderess.

      2. AT LEAST THEY’RE DOING IT FOR AMUSEMENT AND NOT EXPERIMENTATION. Although they do seem to be studying the reactions of that live bird as they bat its broken body around.

        1. Although they do seem to be studying the reactions of that live bird as they bat its broken body around.

          Expect a full rundown of their findings on your doorstep tomorrow morning.

          1. When a cat leaves a dead animal on your doorstep, it’s not a gift – it’s a warning.

            1. No it is a gift, they think you can’t feed yourself.

              I had a friend whose roommate got a cat, a few months later he and his brother starting gifts at their door, the roommate whose cat it was never did. I suggested he try feeding the cat, he did and pretty soon only his brother who refused to was getting the presents. Various girlfriends would get them too, but once they had fed the cat it would stop. I have read research that suggests this wasn’t a one off.

    2. People say that. On the other hand if I found someone severely harming a cat, I can’t promise the person would still be breathing thirty seconds later.

  6. The could give the kittens to the kids who were ripped from their parents arms by the heartless DHS.

    1. Dead or alive? (I’m referring to the kittens)

    2. and then send em back where they came from. at least they’d have one good meal when they got there.

  7. Growing up, cats used to breed like rabbits, attract larger predators, and kill off wildlife. You could kill one cat or wait for a litter and then have to kill 7-10.

    Unless the government was paying $100 per cat to kill them I don’t care one bit. Even if they were paying that, I’m only pissed because I didn’t get paid to do it and that I would’ve done it for $50.

    1. I would favor hunting the cat killers. Their pelts might fetch a pretty penny.

  8. how many years does it take to study this one subject? private industry one year, federal government 50 years and priceless

    1. The effects in humans (aside from Toxoplamosis) are known/well studied and subtle. It’s likely that many of us have the parasites’ spores in our brains right now. Something like 10-15% of the ‘Western’ world carries it and it rises like 60-70% of the developing world does. It makes its ‘victims’ both more docile and sociable, but also more neurotic. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to discover that some deep dark recessed lab at DARPA is trying to weaponize it.

      1. what do you think they already do with that knowledge. the gubbmint already uses the docile side to keep the majority in a stupor accepting what ever the gubbmint says is good for the majority. what with antifa etc i think i know whos getting the psychotic side .

  9. assholes. did not need to know.

    1. ^This is why the Pentagon now bans pictures of soldiers’ coffins. It’s for our own good. Who wants to feel that sense of unease?

      1. true. i see no need for coffin photos they get used for politics. the cat-murder thing makes me angry because I’m not into senseless killing and cats are awesome.

        1. It’s not senseless. Depending on how you arrived at the conclusion, you’re being sold a bill of goods.

          1. i start w/breeding cats to infect and murder them is senseless.

            1. You do realize that the cats were going to breed, contract the disease, and likely murder and then be murdered anyway, right?

              Toxoplasmosis is a real disease that affects people and kills or mentally impairs fetuses. I don’t think wholesale slaughter should be undertaken to (not) cure the (somewhat preventable) disease, but 3,000 cats in 50 yrs. is hardly wholesale slaughter.

              1. you don’t get my vote on animal testing sorry. toxoplasmosis can likely be studied otherwise by 2018. and we’re fucking morons as a species if it takes our brightest 50 years for incomplete study on cat poop.

                i like animals.

                1. our brightest
                  This is the USDA we’re talking about.

                2. their intelligence isn’t in question. they learned 2 things in the 1st week of the study. everything was known about the toxoplasmosis AND the fact if they concluded the study they would not have a 50 year long ,cushy, well paying job to retire from with full benefits.

              2. I’m pretty sure by now there are or could be sophisticated computer models available that reduce the need for animal testing to a minimum.

                1. For once we agree on something.

                  1. But cats are evil, so it’s irrelevant.

      2. We ALL should feel that ‘sense of unease’ whenever it comes to war & its aftermath. I think America should see each and every military & diplomat coffin that comes back from anywhere outside our country, with attendant family members’ reactions. We just love to whitewash reality in this country….

  10. Are the people in that picture Arizona residents?

      1. Did you mean to say “wrong ball of yarn”?

  11. It’s not like they are endangered. Where I live a couple of assholes feed the sewer cats and it fucking pisses me of because they bother my cat.

  12. I’m a cat fan and owner-cats and dogs have been used in research for years. Do I like that? No! But until a better model comes along, it will continue. Until then, do not eat at any Chinese restaurants near Beltsville, MD.

    1. I’m a dog fan and a libertarian. As long as you aren’t experimenting on my dog, or a dog that doesn’t otherwise belong to you, experiment away.

  13. an animal rights group and taxpayer watchdog

    Considering a budget or dollar amount for the euthanizing of these animals isn’t once hinted at, I’m going to guess that Reason either got snookered or is, once again, signalling it’s virtue about how the NAP should apply to cats or whatever.

    I get the impression that White Coat Waste wouldn’t give two shits if the lab were spending $10K dollars a plate to culture toxoplasma if it were spending $1 per euthanized cat. Probably the kind of organization that makes the Union of Concerned Scientists seem established, well reasoned, and non-partisan.

  14. Having been subjected to the misery of cat infested homes while having horrific cat allergies, I’m trying hard not to feel happy about this story.

  15. Given the inability to herd cats into a cohesive group, libertarians should feel a kindred spirit with our feline friends.

    1. I have always abhored the slavish ways of the canine, I have no wish to be worshipped by anyone I am not having sex with.

  16. Wonder what those kitties taste like?
    Ever since Reason quoted that stupid law some moronic legislator was pushing I’ve had a real hankering to know.

    1. Well before the bill passes you should get on it, maybe after a good night of herm smashing?

    2. This would be the first time someone named Alcibiades wanted to eat pussy.

      1. Was waiting for that one…and you came through…congrats.

        PS, Timaia might beg to differ.

  17. “Members of Congress have also introduced bipartisan legislation, the KITTEN Act”

    Of course it’s got a cute acronym.

  18. Thousands of cats have been killed

    Well, it’s a start…

  19. Does anyone know where Michael Hihn was when all of these kitten murders occurred, or whether he didn’t work at the USDA at the times in question? I’m just asking questions.

  20. Kitten? Tastes like chicken.

  21. True story–there was a guy in our dorm in college back in the (well, way back when) who was a member of a sky diving club. His girl friend’s cat had dropped a litter of kittens at the start of the school year and she had procrastinated on getting rid of them and, and, and, eventually it is June, she has graduated and has to leave town immediately to start a new job.

    So boyfriend promises on a six pack of beer to take all 7 or 8 now pretty fully grown cats and find a read good home for them. In his tiny, 21-yr-old mind it occurs to him that his girlfriend really intends to leave him for good but wants to get one last big favor out of him first.

    Then it comes to him. He has a jump scheduled that morning. He puts all the cats in a gunny sack and ignores questions from the pilots about the curious sounds coming from therein. Reaching altitude, out the door he goes with the sack and then he makes the mistake of trying to open it to see if the felines will enjoy free falling and landing on their feet.

    No cats died in this experiment. By the time he reached the ground he was one big scratched up fellow in a shredded suit. Once they were sure they were down, the cats did let go of him and ran off, never to be seen again.

    1. Ah … nothing like a little Karmic justice…..

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  24. Crazy cat ladies hardest hit.

  25. As a cat lover, this is simply one more thing our ‘government’ does with our money that qualifies as an outrage.. I am as thankful for the watchdogs who found this as those who point out our hypocrisy in aiding both sides of battles and skirmishes, PP’s ‘behind the scenes’ activities (frankly, their ‘above board activities’ are something unconscionable to me, and I have less than zero desire to give them anything) and aiding ‘dependent dictators’, as well as all the three letter agencies that have nothing better to do than steal a chunk of our liberties (TSA, IRS, DHS, ) . (Thanks to Jim Babka and Perry Willis of Downsize DC for the phrase ‘dependent dictators’!) It’s too bad the ‘government does not limit itself to the original intent of the Founders and avoid both ‘entangling alliances’ (Thomas Jefferson) and ‘compelling one to furnish funds for the propagation ( not to mention enacting) of ideas he (or she) disbelieves and abhors.

  26. KITTEN Act – “Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act”

    How many tax dollars were spent to come up with that acronym?

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