The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) announced Tuesday that it would stop killing cats in connection with a controversial research program. Scientists were using kittens to research toxoplasmosis– – a potentially deadly parasitic illness usually caught from cats or tainted food.
The animals were fed infected meat, and the parasite’s eggs were harvested for use in other experiments the BBC reports. After the research, the animals were euthanized.
More than 3,000 kittens have been put down since the program was launched in 1982. The NPR reports that “The aim of that seemingly gruesome practice — dubbed “kitten cannibalism” by critics — was to understand how widespread the parasitic disease is in animals around the world, Justin Goodman, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project, a group that works to end government animal testing.”
In a statement announcing the decision, 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.”
OUR FREE OPINION
The NPR report also noted that “According to the USDA its research has helped to cut the prevalence of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite by as much as 50 percent in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 40 million Americans may be infected with the parasite. While the vast majority of those infected have no symptoms, it can be deadly for people with weak immune systems, such as children and HIV patients.”
Some believe that animal research has had a vital role in many scientific and medical advances. Others opine that animal experimentation is cruel and unnecessary, regardless of its purpose or benefit, PMC reports.
We are encouraged by the proposition that the study of bacteria will eventually replace the use of animals in scientific research focused on diseases.
Much progress has been accomplished. The study of bacteria has revolutionized disease diagnostics, allowing more rapid and precise identification of infectious agents than ever before.