by Robert Hudson
Our own government, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services division had been conducting experiments since 1982 that involved infecting cats with toxoplasmosis — a disease usually caused by eating undercooked contaminated meat — in order to study the foodborne illness. Once the cats were infected and the parasite harvested, the felines were put down. Thanks to the pressure of a watchdog group, the USDA has now announced the end to the program.
For the past year the group White Coat Waste Project has been putting pressure on the USDA to end the program and came out with a shocking study that showed our government did the following:
Kittens and cats have been used in three ways by USDA toxoplasmosis experimenters:
1. For oocyst generation—how USDA is currently using cats—kittens are bred, fed various
animal tissues (usually brain or muscle) that contain Toxoplasma cysts, and their feces is
collected to harvest oocysts for use in other experiments. The USDA kills the kittens after 2
weeks, when they no longer shed oocysts, even though they become immune and are healthy.
2. In bioassays, cats are fed various animal tissues that might contain Toxoplasma cysts. If the cat
then sheds oocysts, Toxoplasma presence in the fed tissue is confirmed. Before, during and after
bioassay, cats are perfectly healthy.
3. In challenge studies, cats are force-fed or inoculated with various strains and doses of
Toxoplasma tissue cysts or oocysts to observe the animal’s response to infection. Unlike
bioassays, some cats sicken and die or are killed as part of the experimental challenge protocols
because of the unnaturally large doses they are exposed to.
Past and recent USDA cat experiments
Currently, cats and kittens at USDA are solely being used for oocyst production. According to the
currently-approved protocol for ARS cat use, up to 100 kittens are bred each year at the APDL in
Beltsville, Maryland. At eight weeks old, the kittens are fed raw meat infected with the T. gondii
parasite. The kittens’ feces’ are collected for up to three weeks so experimenters can harvest oocysts for use in food safety experiments with collaborators. These healthy kittens—who briefly pass the parasite’s eggs and become immune within weeks—are then killed and incinerated by USDA because they are no longer useful.
Historically, however, about 82 percent (2684) of ARS lab kittens were used for bioassays in which they were fed animal tissues to test for the presence of Toxoplasma.
At the end of the three-week bioassays, all kittens were killed and incinerated. In one single USDA experiment published in 2005, 1121 healthy bioassayed lab kittens were killed.15 It is worth noting that these cats were used to screen retail meat samples for Toxoplasma, and this could have been largely conducted without cat use because the prevalence of T. gondii in other screening tests (including mice) was very low.16 The remaining 18% (576) kittens were used by USDA for challenge studies, of which 308 (54%) died during the experiments. The remaining 268 kittens were killed post-experiment. ”
And perhaps the most shocking:
USDA’s kitten cannibalism
In addition to the cats USDA breeds and kills itself, for at least a decade—and as recently as 2015—the same ARS experimenters purchased and killed hundreds of pet, stray or “unwanted” cats (and dogs) from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The dead cats’ and dogs’ tissues were then shipped to APDL in Maryland and fed to the USDA’s lab-bred cats and other animals. ”
So lets recap: the USDA infected over 3000 cats with a deadly disease and then euthanized survivors. They bred cats for the experiments and used both kittens and adults that were killed if they survived. They purchased cats and dogs from other countries that slaughtered them and sent the meat to the USDA that turned around and fed it to the lab cats.
In a public statement announcing the end of the program, the agency said “toxoplasmosis research has been redirected and the use of cats as part of any research protocol in any ARS laboratory has been discontinued and will not be reinstated.”
Kudos to White Coat Waste Project for their diligence .