News is breaking that the United States Department of Agriculture is using hundreds of healthy kittens for scientific research and then simply killing the kittens once the experiment is done. According to White Coat Waste Project, a non-partisan watchdog group, the USDA facility in Beltsville, Maryland uses up to 100 kittens a year to study toxoplasma gondii by intentionally feeding the cats meat infected with the parasite. The researchers then collect the parasite from the cats’ feces and after 2-3 weeks of collection, kill and incinerate the kittens.
These experiments have been occurring for decades, undoubtedly resulting in the death of many helpless kittens. Science has evolved beyond these outdated research models and many researchers are now calling for an end to animal testing altogether. The European Union has made strides to end animal testing and has banned all cosmetic testing on animals. The European Commission, an institution that proposes and implements legislation in the EU, supports the ultimate goal of phasing out all animal testing and replacing it with scientifically valid alternatives[i].
Support for non-animal models seems to be on the rise, likely because non-animal models are more accurate, less time-consuming and more humane. Alternatives to animal testing include computer models, cell and tissue cultures and humans who already have the disease or ailment. Pharmaceutical drugs tested on animals have over a 90% failure rate on humans. This has lead the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to spend millions on developing a non-animal alternative to drug testing[ii]. This model, “human-on-a-chip”, is a miniaturized version of human organs such as livers, lungs and intestines. Many have hailed scientific advancements such as this because these studies will better translate to humans, rather than animals who have many biological differences to people[iii][iv].
Regarding the kitten study on toxoplasma gondii, non-animal models already exist. According to a review in Trends in Parasitology entitled “Toxoplasma gondii: One Organism, Multiple Models”, using test tube samples of toxoplasma gondii is an effective method of studying and experimenting on the parasite[v]. There is no need to force kittens to suffer, especially when humane alternatives exist.
Michigan representative Michael D. Bishop has also shown concerns over these harmful and archaic experiments in a stern letter to Secretary Perdue, stating, “As you can imagine, I was shocked to hear that the USDA, the very organization set out to enforce animal welfare laws and regulations, was treating the life of animals with such contempt (…) it appears that this project uses kittens as test tubes. Put simply, it creates life to destroy life.”
Alley Cat Rescue is committed to helping all cats. This is why we started a petition to demand that the USDA end these kitten experiments. You can sign our petition here.
[i] Cronin, M. European Commission. (2017). Non-Animal Approaches: The Way Forward.
[ii] Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Testing (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pcrm.org/research/animaltestalt/tailtox/frequently-asked-questions-about-animal-testing
[iii] Woods, B. (August 15, 2017). It sounds futuristic, but it’s not sci-fi: Human organs-on-a-chip. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/14/fda-tests-groundbreaking-human-organs-on-a-chip.html
[iv] Knight, A. (2008). Non-Animal Methodologies within Biomedical Research and Toxicity Testing. Alternatives to Animal Experimentation, 25, 213-231.
[v] Szabo, E.K. & Finney, C.A.M. (2017). Toxoplasma gondii: One Organism, Multiple Models. Trends in Parasitology, 33(2), 113-127.
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.