Cats

Bill to End Federally Funded Kitten Murder Runs Into Opposition From Cat-Killing Bureaucrats

A new bill would end the USDA's practice of euthanizing kittens after feeding them parasite-infected meat.

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Divanir4a/Dreamstime.com

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D–Ore.) has decided to close out the year by introducing the most unobjectionable piece of legislation ever conceived.

Called the Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act, or KITTEN Act, Merkley's bill—introduced last week—aims to stop the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) current practice of killing off cats they breed for research, requiring instead that these kitties be put up for adoption.

"The KITTEN Act will protect these innocent animals from being needlessly euthanized in government testing, and make sure that they can be adopted by loving families instead," Merkley said in a statement.

The bill is a response to revelations from the White Coat Waste Project, an anti-animal testing group, about the USDA's practice of essentially using kittens as parasite incubators at its Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

Carlin Becker described the grisly practice for Reason in September:

"Documents obtained by the [White Coat Waste Project] 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."

This is a pretty shocking practice, considering the undeniable cuteness of the average kitten. It's made worse by the fact that euthanizing the cats is almost certainly unnecessary.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the toxoplasma found in the research kitties' poop only poses a risk to humans for up to three weeks after the animal is first infected. The parasite is easily treated in both humans and cats, and most people who become infected with toxoplasma do not even require treatment.

Nevertheless, the USDA has continued to defend the practice, arguing that it's just following orders best practices in animal research, and that the risks to adoptive families are just too great to let these cats live.

"Our goal is to reduce the spread of toxoplasmosis. Adopting laboratory cats could, unfortunately, undermine that goal, potentially causing severe infections, especially with unborn children or those with immunodeficiencies," a USDA spokesperson said to CNN back in May.

All things considered, this is a remarkable testament to a bureaucracy's habit of just continuing to do the same thing it's always done regardless of how cruel or unnecessary it might be. Indeed, it's hard to think of anyone that could be opposed to ending needless, government euthanasia of potential fur babies.

No action has been taken on Merkley's bill, as the text of his legilsation has not been released. A companion House bill—which would prohibit any "painful or stressful" USDA experimentation on cats—was introduced back in May, but has languished in committee for months.

Even in these divided times, one would hope that Americans could at least rally around the cause of saving a few cute kittens from needless, taxpayer-funded annihilation.

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  1. “The KITTEN Act will protect these innocent animals from being needlessly euthanized in government testing

    by putting that burden on animal shelters.

    1. no cake for you.

    2. Seriously. Last time I googled I think we euthanize about 100,000,000 cats a year in the US. This is a zero sum game.

      1. Shame we can’t say that about humans, isn’t it?

        1. Just whom did you wish to euthanize. Perhaps you’ll volunteer first to begin the 100,000,000 euthanizations? What kind of statement is that anyway?

        2. Just whom did you wish to euthanize. Perhaps you’ll volunteer first to begin the 100,000,000 euthanizations? What kind of statement is that anyway?

      2. even if we euthanize 1,000,000,000, that is still no reason NOT to euthanize 100 if it can be prevented.

    3. But it’s not like they have parasites that could infect the rest of the animals there!

  2. Even in these divided times, one would hope that Americans could at least rally around the cause of saving a few cute kittens from needless, taxpayer-funded annihilation.

    By having it done at animal shelters instead. Sure it’s sad, but you’re dreaming if you think even 1/4 of the cats put up for adoption will be taken home.

    1. Or just kill off the USDA’s program and those kittens don’t need to be bred in the first place.

      1. Yes, that would be best.

        1. Yes! Because cats are notorious killers of songbirds. We don’t really need any more kittens.

          1. Songbirds are horrible, my morning hangover is bad enough already without the torture they inflict.

          2. A well fed cat left outdoors is reported to make a kill at least every other day. Rabbits, birds, squirrels and chipmunks on the list along with mice.

      2. This. Why have we been infecting kittens with the same thing for 50 years? If they haven’t figured whatever out by now it’s unlikely that they ever will so why keep spending this money? Yeah, I’m sure there’s some pol saying ‘but, but, jobs in my district!’ but fuck him or better yet butt fuck him with a kitten tail while it’s still in rigor so at least he’ll get a warm fuzzy.

    2. Kittens have better odd than cats in general, though. Parisite infected kittens probably less so, however.

      1. True, but there will always be way too many for people to adopt.

    3. Maybe more than you think get taken home.

      Protein is protein.

  3. >>>most people who become infected with toxoplasma do not even require treatment

    but hey let’s kill a bunch of fucking innocent furries for science and research funding!

    1. If they were killing furries, that would be totally fine with me.

    2. Moreover, most people who become infected with toxoplasma become cat people, more likely to adopt the hundreds of thousands of cats the animal shelters are forced to kill every year. It’s literally a parasite that makes humans think cats are adorable and was probably a key factor in the domestication of cats.

  4. Nevertheless, the USDA has continued to defend the practice, arguing that it’s just following orders best practices in animal research…

    You know who else thought it was a good idea to cull sub-felines from the master genus?

      1. hilarious.

    1. Mumm-Ra?

    2. Chairman Meow?

      1. +1

        Even better than Kitler!

  5. “Carlin Becker described the grizzly practice for Reason in September”

    I dunno. It sounds more like a polar bear practice to me, since they, like cats, are obligate carnivores.

    1. “are obligate carnivores.”

      Every cat I know eats kibble.

      1. Which is primarily made from…wait for it…animal by-products.

        Cats did not evolve on a vegetarian diet. They have nutritional requirements that make it extremely difficult for them to survive by eating only plant protein.

        1. So you are saying that dementia induced blindness is survival?

  6. Wait until Britches finds out how we test new drugs for toxicity and efficacy. Hoo boy, the outrage will be lit AF.

    I’ve noticed that aside from Bailey the Reason staff are dreadfully uninformed when it comes to scientific issues. Which is what one would expect from a bunch of Liberal Arts/English/Poly Sci majors.

  7. What’s wrong with Reason? One minute it’s Zuri saying it is homophobic and wrong to ban HIV+ blood from the nation’s blood supply and now Britches wants the federal government to place human parasite-infested diseased cats into homes with children.

    This is why no one identifies as “libertarian” anymore.

    1. As I noted above, there aren’t many engineers or scientists on Reason’s staff.

      All this newfangled science-ing stuff is a black box to them.

      1. Sciency stuff like saying there’s no way to test blood samples and why bother because all gays have HIV?

        1. Blood banks still prevent people who have been exposed to a myriad of diseases from donating, even though they show no symptoms and the disease is not detected in them (Creutzfeld-Jakob, for example).

          HIV is often not detectable in persons until six months after infection, so the blood bank has no way knowing that the seemingly healthy gay man is actually infected with HIV he got from the muscle-bound Bear he met on Grindr a couple of weeks earlier.

          And because sexually-active, non-monogamous gay men are disproportionately likely to have HIV when compared to the straight population, it is both logical and proper to restrict them from donating.

          And it’s not just HIV: gay men are far more likely to be infected with Hepatitis B and C than straight men. When it comes to blood, gay men are just too high a risk for the blood bank to accept.

      2. Don’t need no science degree. Just 20 seconds and Google:

        “If you are newly infected with Toxoplasma while you are pregnant, or just before pregnancy, then you can pass the infection on to your baby. You may not have any symptoms from the infection. Most infected infants do not have symptoms at birth but can develop serious symptoms later in life, such as blindness or mental disability. Occasionally, infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.”

        1. I keep a cat, but I’m extremely unlikely to become pregnant.

  8. At last we’ve found common ground in SHUTTING DOWN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

  9. Well, they don’t have to be needlessly euthanized.

    1. Yes, there are many uses for dead cats! “There’s a cat in the kettle at the Peking Moon” = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj_e9UcJD34

  10. Isn’t this really a question of whether congress needs to be passing laws to police its own departments?

    1. By golly, a special counsel should look into this!

  11. Kitten factor aside, I am against all bills named so that there is a cute acronym title.
    Why not just call it “the useless bill to pretend we are doing something while not even passing ta budget”?
    Or “the use kittens to infect children just because we can bill”?

    1. OK, not sure if my sub-conscience meant ‘the budget’ or ‘da budget’; either way, add me to the list of those wanting an edit feature.

      1. “Da Budget” sounds like a mid 90s hip hop album by an east coast rapper called MC Green$pan who I just made up.

        1. Da Bears.

  12. They do it in Beltsville, MD, so it’s right down the road from DC.

    But if they breed them specifically for this purpose, why would putting them up for adoption be a good idea? I mean, how many cats are we talking here? Instead of making them available for adoption, why not end the breeding of them altogether? I’ll bet the testing they endure is not at all necessary and is some kind of holdover from decades past.

    1. I’d tend to agree. Much of the USDA testing is testing that’s actually already done (or could be done) in the private sector anyway, and even then, is becoming obsolete as I understand it. My first point there doesn’t deal with the large number of abused, unwanted cats that such breeding and testing generates, but there’s less transparency at least so corporate laboratories can just incinerate the used kittens and Britches wouldn’t even know about it. Of course vivisection and animal testing is not going away (probably ever), but as libertarians who do not impose all our moral qualms on others (lol?) we at least tend to express distaste when the government does it. Personally, I happen to have arrived at a moral and ethical objection to it, but I’m surely a hypocrite what with benefitting from medical and scientific breakthroughs that are directly, or indirectly the result of such research.

    2. That makes sense to me. but maybe this could be a both/and. Adopt out the current kittens to families or single owners who would not be affected by the disease, and end the program as well.

  13. Donate them all to Congress. Congress can choose to have them delivered dead or alive.

    Problem solved.

  14. how many years does it take to study a subject they already know everything about. Seems like the study should be ended and then the cat killing will end

    1. What!?
      End a Federal program?
      Have you lost your mind?

  15. Idiots. Just fucking idiots. Save the kitty.

  16. Motherfuckers.

  17. Toxoplasma infection is a bigger deal than the article lets on.

    It is a parasite found in cats. It is very common world wide. It also infects animals we eat such as pigs and sheep and can be transmitted by eating undercooked meat.

    Most humans will be asymptomatic or have a flu like illness. It can be treated with antiparasitic drugs which can have serious side effects.

    The biggest problem is pregnancy. It can be passed to the fetus resulting in blindness and other major congenital conditions.

    There are also different strains, some more virulent than others.

    So yes it needs more research.

    It sounds like they are using the cats as incubators to get parasites. Harvesting them from random cat poop would not work because you would have multiple strains. This method gives a uniform sample to work with. Certainly another method would be better I do not know if there is one. It is a parasite so not like a bacteria you can just grow.

    1. So, just to be clear, your not also saying that it should be federally funded and carried out on such a large scale? Big federal programs like this, dictated by lobbyists and cronies, remove the motivation for innovation to develop, better, more humane, and less wasteful methods, surely?

      1. I am not talking about any of that.

        Just my understanding of the basic scientific issues.

      2. My point is the article is misleading.

        1. Ok fair enough

    2. couldn’t these cats be treated and cleared of the parasite before heading off to their new adopted homes? I just don’t see how this is a health concern if the parasite is easily treated.

      1. Yeah but if it was that simple the funding might dry up. Best keep infecting, treating, and killing more cats to breed new strains of the Toxoplasma sp. so they can say, “uh oh a new strain; we’re gonna need more funding!”

      2. It is a good question. This stuff awakens my inner nerd. So I had to look it up.

        The organism has a complex lifecycle. It can asexually reproduce in almost any animal but only sexually reproduce in cats. Then it produces the oocytes, eggs if you will, which come out in the poop, picked up by other animals, and the cycle goes from there.

        So there is a stage that only occurs in newly infected cats, the bradyzoite. Turns out the drugs do not work in this stage which is where these kittens are. So they are no help.

        The infection however burns itself out and the animal should be immune eventually. So there may be a safe way to adopt them at some point.

        Sad truth though is finding them homes may not be easy. We euthanize so many already.

  18. “Called the Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act, or KITTEN Act,…”

    Reason enough right there to vote “no”.

  19. So who’s on the hook if these cats are adopted out and an adopter or their family get toxoplasmia? Not the legislator proposing this bill, for sure.

  20. Kittens should be killed.
    They are cute, cuddly, fun and will grow up being predatory animals that kill rats, mice and insects, the very animals that transmit disease to humans.
    With Cat Control, we can have more people die of diseases carried by vermin (not including progressives) to cull the excess population we suffer from today.
    Plus kitten fur makes for great mittens.
    Just as the three little kittens.

    1. Absolutely! Your tongue in cheek practicality is just what Hillary Clinton loves. It’s the touching Margaret Sanger-type of behavior we just can’t do without -and the reason God is going to let Satan destroy most of the world with War, Famine, and Disease.

  21. The UN is gonna have to give kittens/cats their own country now…

    1. You live in it at least in terms of pet cats. We have more of them than anywhere.

      As we cat owners know, the cats consider themselves as at least equal partners in the relationship.

      They look at you like “when you can jump 7x your body height then we can talk about a superior species”

      1. With the damn cats it’s all “Who. Whom.”

        Who is cleaning the litter box for whom.

  22. For a Leaner, Meaner America

    The Early Purges
    by Seamus Heaney

    I was six when I first saw kittens drown.
    Dan Taggart pitched them, ‘the scraggy wee shits’,
    Into a bucket; a frail metal sound,

    Soft paws scraping like mad. But their tiny din
    Was soon soused. They were slung on the snout
    Of the pump and the water pumped in.

    ‘Sure, isn’t it better for them now?’ Dan said.
    Like wet gloves they bobbed and shone till he sluiced
    Them out on the dunghill, glossy and dead.

    Suddenly frightened, for days I sadly hung
    Round the yard, watching the three sogged remains
    Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung

    Until I forgot them. But the fear came back
    When Dan trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows
    Or, with a sickening tug, pulled old hens’ necks.

    Still, living displaces false sentiments
    And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown
    I just shrug, ‘Bloody pups’. It makes sense:

    ‘Prevention of cruelty’ talk cuts ice in town
    Where they consider death unnatural
    But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down.

  23. Sorry, but being a safety professional, NO. Human safety comes first. The allowable safety standard for actions that cause death is 1 in 10,000 years. This is achievable only through multiple layers of protection. These are fairly basic safety standards.

    Either end the collection process or kill the cats. No non-human test subjects, once infected, should leave the lab alive.

    1. You are implying the principle that no preventable death is acceptable. I agree. We can also agree that they happen all the time despite the best efforts.

      So that is the bungle in the jungle. We all have our place in it.

  24. Reason needs to check the definition of murder!

    1. Agree! See my post below…

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  26. Because we have so few kittens up for adoption now?

    1. Indeed; guess this means those awful ASPCA commercials will now feature only dogs since the cat shortage is over!

  27. Killing an animal is not an act of murder. Murder is a term applied solely to the unjust taking of a human life. That difference is important in distinguishing the value of human life form the lower life forms. Those who blur that line open the door to barbaric acts on human beings.

    The correct term is “destroying” an animal…

    1. In some sense I agree. This certainly is applicable when it comes to abortion on demand (for any and all intent), and more so when we are forced by statists to pay for it. (One is free to research Forbes’ website or Google tax payer funded abortion to see what I mean) But as ethical libertarians, we hopefully value animals as part of what makes life on Earth meaningful. This applies in particular to those animals that we can domesticate. Some elderly people, who have no families near by, prize their pets and couldn’t imagine their lives without them. I think there should be a more accurate term for this, I think murder is too strong, as you do, but destroy doesn’t quite work for me either. (destroy can refer to inanimate objects as well, and I believe this would be demeaning to animals) at least killing acknowledges that we are discussing a living being.

      1. Some elderly people, who have no families near by, prize their pets and couldn’t imagine their lives without them.

        This debate does not involve, and is irrelevant to, any issue involving killing pets of lonely elderly people.

        More pigs, cows, and chickens have been slaughtered in the past hour or so than the entire number of cats involved in this issue. How many ants were stepped on, flies swatted, spiders smashed in the time it took to compose or read this comment? A few (more) cats barely make the morality list.

  28. We clearly need common sense kitten control.
    No research requires more than 7 kittens,
    ban these high capacity research programs.

  29. This is just a cushy job for some “Joe Testtube-Scientist ” and a couple of his assistants (relatives) who work for CDC and want that great health care Government package. I’m not an Animal activist by any means but this is obviously the same sick crap as putting chemicals in rabbits eyes so they can observe them going blind. DUH yup that causes blindness!! Next batch. FKN cruel and stupidity welded together to form industrial death farm. BRAVO! clap, clap, clap.

  30. It’s good to know that we are living in Utopia. We must be, if something this trivial rates legislative attention.

    I did not expect Utopia to be a place where emotionalistic appeals for cute kittens ruled the day.

    1. “It’s good to know that we are living in Utopia. We must be, if something this trivial rates legislative attention.”

      This and the oh, so serious issue regarding Barry Bonds and steroids! How can such major questions escape congress’ attention?!

      1. I, for one, am glad Congress is setting aside dealing with debt and entitlement reform to take the important issue of diseased kittens.

  31. 50 years, and they haven’t exhausted the useful information to be gathered from this means of research? Sound like someone needs to be fired for being incompetent.

  32. Don’t you have a government to open back up Mr. Merkley? I’m pretty sure Oregonians are paying you a six figure salary for something better than this

  33. How might a libertarian site approach the issue of a cat owner’s entitlement to kill the cat? Or a hog owner’s entitlement to kill the hog, or a chicken owner’s entitlement to kill the chicken, or a cow owner’s entitlement to kill the cow, or a homeowner’s entitlement to swat a fly inside that home, or . . .

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