Oregon's own U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced today he's helping introduce the Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now (KITTEN) Acta bicameral, bipartisan bill intended to end the practice of killing kittens used in lab testing by the USDA. The bill was co-written with California Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D), and according to the release, has the support of more than 20 other lawmakers in both houses.

That seems low to us too. 

“The USDA’s decision to slaughter kittens after they are used in research is an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and we need to end it,” Senator Merkley said in the press release. “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.”

Those kittens, up to 100 a year since 1970, are used by the USDA's Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory. The Maryland lab apparently infects kittens using parasitic meat, and then collects their (undoubtedly adorable, teeny) feces, now riddled with parasitic eggs, for even more testing.

"Once the eggs are collected, the 3-month-old kittens are killed and incinerated—even though the kittens could easily be treated and adopted out."

Horrific? Yes. Surprising? In 2019, no. 

You can read the full press release below:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Jimmy Panetta today introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act, or KITTEN Act, which would end the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) practice of killing kittens after they’re used in agency testing.

“The USDA’s decision to slaughter kittens after they are used in research is an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and we need to end it,” Senator Merkley said. “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.” 

“This common sense, bipartisan bill will require the USDA to adhere to the same animal welfare standards that the department is charged to uphold,” said Congressman Panetta. “While I strongly support scientific research, taxpayer money and federal resources should be spent on advancing scientific research in an ethical manner, not on inflicting pain on kittens or killing them after they are used in agency testing. I hope this bill helps us get closer to ending this cruel practice.”

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 breeds up to 100 kittens per year. Once they’re 2 months old, the kittens are fed parasite-infected raw meat. Their feces are then collected and parasitic eggs are harvested for use in other experiments. Once the eggs are collected, the 3-month-old kittens are killed and incinerated—even though the kittens could easily be treated and adopted out.

The Centers for Disease Control, American Veterinary Medical Association, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges say that these kittens are safe to have as pets. That’s why Merkley secured language in the Senate Appropriations Committee agricultural bill that urges USDA to consider alternative testing methods to infecting and killing kittens.

“Three thousand kittens killed and $22 million squandered for decades of cruel and unproductive USDA experiments is tragic whether you care about government waste, animal protection or both. Like a majority of Americans, our two-million-plus members want this nightmarish program ended and we applaud Senator Merkley for his outstanding leadership to end the USDA’s taxpayer-funded kitten slaughter,” said Noelle Callahan, Public Policy Manager at taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project.

“The USDA’s archaic kitten experiments are out of step with 21st century research practices and animal welfare recommendations. Continuing to breed and kill perfectly healthy kittens for toxoplasmosis research is unethical and unnecessary, and I’m grateful to Senator Merkley for introducing the KITTEN Act to stop it once and for all,” said Hannah Shaw, a guest expert for Animal Planet, and founder of animal advocacy project, Kitten Lady.

The KITTEN Act would fully protect these kittens by requiring that the Secretary of Agriculture end the use of kittens and cats in any USDA experiments that unnecessarily hurts the animals. It is supported by a wide range of Senate and House cosponsors, including Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and a group of more than 20 bipartisan U.S. Representatives.

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