Washington Examiner: A bipartisan cause: Stop USDA cat testing

Jul 2, 2018
In The News

The federal government is spending your tax dollars to conduct outdated and deadly experiments on dogs and cats, animals most Americans consider family. Thankfully, advocates and lawmakers across the political spectrum are taking action to end these atrocities.

Representatives and senators are sympathetic on this issue and have been active in protecting dogs from outdated and inhumane government testing programs. For the second year in a row, Congress has just taken action to protect taxpayers from being forced to pay the Department of Veterans Affairs to drill holes into 6-month-old puppies’ heads and inject latex into their arteries to induce heart attacks. The successful bipartisan effort has been led by House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat, R-Va., and Las Vegas progressive Dina Titus, D-Nev., with widespread support from their Republican and Democratic colleagues, as well as major veteran’s groups and former Veterans’ Secretary David Shulkin.

Brat offered an amendment in 2017 to an appropriations bill that passed the House of Representatives unanimously and continues as law today. The amendment prohibits the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from funding medical experiments on dogs that causes significant pain or harm.

Brat said during the debate on his amendment, “the experiments being conducted at the at the McGuire VA hospital in Richmond are horrific and inhumane” and “these dog-testing experiments at the VA are consuming limited taxpayer dollars, medical staff time, and office space that could be better utilized to deliver health care for veterans. The VA’s first priority should be caring for our veterans, not harming man's best friend.” Now, lawmakers and taxpayers are taking aim at the Department of Agriculture for doing deadly tests on kittens.

Last month, conservative watchdog White Coat Waste Project revealed that since 1982 the Agriculture Department has spent $650,000 each year to breed 100 kittens and make them eat toxoplasma-infected raw meat to grow parasites in their stool for use in other experiments. The tiny ten-week-old kittens are healthy at the end but are killed anyway. This seems like one of those programs that has been going on for decades because nobody at the department took the time to end this redundant program.

Over just a few weeks, more than 120,000 taxpayers have urged Congress to cut the project and spare the kittens, to which Michigan Republican Mike Bishop responded, "You spoke up, so we are stepping up.”

Reps. Bishop and House Agriculture committee member Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., have introduced the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now (KITTEN) Act to prevent the USDA from spending your tax dollars on wasteful and painful experiments on kittens and cats. The bill has already garnered over 30 bipartisan cosponsors.

In the Senate, the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee — headed by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. — included language in the USDA’s fiscal 2019 spending bill calling out the agency for its “painful and terminal laboratory experiments” on kittens and mandating that it takes steps toward ending the testing and adopt out the cats.

For its part, the USDA has predictably defended the tests, saying that the figure of 100 kittens a year is “a serious over-estimate” and that the kittens can’t be adopted because of the parasite. But both claims have been debunked by advocates and experts.

As the White Coat Waste Project told reporters, “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that USDA bureaucrats running a taxpayer-funded kitten slaughterhouse would twist the truth about it.”

This seems like one of those bureaucratic programs that nobody knows who started and nobody has taken the time to figure out a way to end it. Congress is going to have to push for legislation and a funding restriction to forcibly stop the Department of Agriculture from spending taxpayer money in an abusive fashion.

We live in a nation whose bedrock is the consent of the governed. These outdated tests do not have the support of the American people. About one-third of all American households have a cat as a pet, and polling shows as much as 75 percent of the American people don’t want their tax dollars used on these types of experiments.

Congress can and should take action to end them now.