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A bipartisan group of lawmakers will introduce legislation Thursday to prevent the Department of Agriculture from continuing deadly experiments on kittens.
"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," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the Senate bill's lead sponsor, said in a statement to NBC News.
Agency - Kittens - Beltsville - Maryland - Parasite
The agency has been breeding kittens in Beltsville, Maryland, and infecting them with a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis, a foodborne illness. Scientists harvest the parasites from their stool for two to three weeks, and then euthanize and incinerate the cats.
The agency has said animal rights advocates' claim that it has been experimenting on 100 cats annually is overblown, but a USDA administrator told Congress last year that "2,988 cats have been used in these research efforts that began in 1982."
Bills - Watchdog - Group - White - Coat
The bills are being championed by the watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, which has run an advertisement campaign against the experiments in Maryland. The group's vice president of advocacy and public policy, Justin Goodman, said its members "want this horrific program relegated to the litter box of history."
"Three-thousand healthy kittens killed and $22 million wasted on decades of cruel and unproductive government experiments should alarm budget hawks and advocates alike," Goodman said.
USDA - Requests - Comment
The USDA did not respond to requests for comment.
Its Agricultural Research Services has defended the experiments as "life-saving research." The agency maintains the animals have to be euthanized to stop the parasite from infecting people, but the American Veterinary Medical Association has said that handling...
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