A United States government research program, which led to the deaths of thousands of cats, has been shut down, scientists announced Tuesday.
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research Services lab in Beltsville, MD had been infecting cats with toxoplasmosis before euthanizing them as part of its research in foodborne illnesses.
According to NBC, the research also included feeding the meat of other cats and dogs purportedly purchased from Chinese meat markets, to the lab cats.
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The research program was shut down following the publication of the “USDA Kitten Cannibalism” report by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog organization that aims to stop taxpayer-funded experiments on animals.
“That the USDA could, for over a decade, use taxpayers’ money to go around the world rounding up hundreds of kittens and puppies, killing them, and feeding their brains to cats for useless experiments highlights the disturbing lack of accountability and transparency at the agency,” White Coat Waste Project vice president Justin Goodman was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.
Congressional legislation cosponsored by D-California Rep. Jimmy Panetta, and R-Florida Rep. Brian Mast, has earlier ordered to put a stop to the experiments. The program reportedly cost $650,000 per year in taxpayers’ money.
In its announcement regarding the end of the toxoplasmosis research program earlier this week, the USDA did not mention any reference to the cat cannibalism report.
“ARS toxoplasmosis research has reached its maturity and ARS considers the project’s objectives for agriculture achieved,” the statement said. “While there is still additional research needed in this area regarding human health, this research area is outside of USDA’s stated mission.”
The USDA further claimed that their research helped reduce the prevalence of the toxoplasmosis parasite in the US for as much as 50%.
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