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Why Did the Government Kill So Many Adorable Kitties?

May 2, 2019
Why Did the Government Kill So Many Adorable Kitties?

Does your cat enjoy classical music? Does it change their behavior? How much would you pay to find out? Probably not much, right? Well, then you’re not the federal government. Back in 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent $1.3 million on 10 studies that involved such research on felines.

That kind of silliness is why Senator Joni Ernst recently introduced the common sense Cost Openness and Spending Transparency (COST) Act to require that all taxpayer-funded projects include a public “price tag” of sorts so taxpayers know what they’re getting, or not getting, for their money.

What kind of results did the classical music study get?

Researchers found that “after playing classical music for cats every day, they were less likely to poop outside of the litter box or cough up hairballs,” Ernst says.

Sure, the project sounds funny, but the joke is ultimately on us taxpayers. And not all cat experiments we’re forced to pay for are so benign.

Last year, White Coat Waste Project—a taxpayer watchdog group started by GOP strategists—exposed how for decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture  had secretively bred as many as 100 kittens a year, fed them parasite-infested raw meat, harvested parasites from their stool to use in other experiments, and then killed and incinerated the healthy and adoptable kittens. Between 1982 and now, more than 3,000 kittens were killed in this lab and more than $22 million squandered even though the disturbing project hadn’t made a meaningful contribution in decades.

Now, the good news: the USDA just shut down this wasteful and inhumane program. The decision followed bipartisan pressure from Congress, a yearlong WCW grassroots campaign and its horrific new exposé documenting how USDA staff were spending taxpayer money to travel to meat markets and slaughterhouses in China, buying live kittens and puppies, having them killed and dismembered, bringing their organs back in carry-on luggage, and feeding them to cats back in the USDA’s lab for twisted cannibalism experiments.

Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL), who helped introduce bipartisan legislation—the KITTEN Act—to end this practice, summed it up well when he told reporters, “With all the awful reports coming out, it was clear that Americans opposed USDA’s cruel testing on kittens. This is a decisive victory against government animal abuse and wasteful spending. We’ve worked closely with advocates and scientists to stop the USDA’s abuse and I am grateful to Secretary Perdue for his leadership in ensuring no more kittens are ever used in research and that the last cats remaining at USDA can be adopted.  Now, other agencies need to follow suit and put a permanent end to abusive and painful animal testing.”

Mast—a combat-wounded veteran who is also leading the fight to stop heart attack experiments on puppies at the Department of Veterans Affairs—is right. The federal government still squanders $15 billion a year on secretive and outdated animal tests that it acknowledges fail to translate to people 95 percent of the time. A 2018 national poll by Pew Research shows that a growing majority of Americans oppose animal testing, and that historically more modest opposition among Republican voters has recently “skyrocketed” over the last decade.

And so it’s not surprising that most of the progress made on this issue has been spearheaded by Republicans.  It’s always annoying when taxpayer dollars are wasted, but when it’s done to abuse dogs and cats in secretive, cruel, and unproductive government experiments, it is not only wasteful, it’s downright un-American.

Alyssa Hackbarth

Alyssa Hackbarth is a member of the executive board of White Coat Waste Project.