An unnerving report about to be released by a government watchdog group reveals that United States scientists purchased hundreds of dogs and cats for the purpose of troubling experiments including feeding cats to one another, NBC News reports. Many of the animals were bought from Asian meat markets of the exact variety that Congress condemned last year for dealing in dogs and cats to be used as meat around the world.
“It’s crazy,” remarked Jim Keen, a former scientist who now works with the White Coat Waste Project, an organization that monitors government programs involving animal testing.
“Cannibal cats, cats eating dogs — I don’t see the logic.”
The watchdog group was able to discover the disturbing experimentation through publicly available reports released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Keen worked as a scientist with the USDA previously.
The experiments, which seem to have been conducted between 2003 and 2005, were allegedly aimed at understanding a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a food-borne illness commonly associated with exposure to cat feces. In addition to the cats that were killed to be fed to other cats during these experiments, more than 400 dogs were also euthanized to be used as lab food. The dogs came from Columbia, Brazil, and Vietnam while the cats, numbering more than 100, were from China and Ethiopia.
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Keen, who left the USDA after drawing attention to the mistreatment of livestock in 2015, said that the research around toxoplasmosis has helped to curtail the disease, but that government scientists have not made significant new findings in decades. Keen and the leaders of the White Coat Waste Project contend that work can continue with existing samples and that there is no need to continue infecting and killing cats or dogs to accommodate further research.
Additionally, the group points out, research of toxoplasmosis is outside of the purview of the USDA, as dogs and cats are not part of the food supply in the U.S.
“It’s totally unrelated to the food safety mission,” Keen said.
“We shouldn’t be paying for that as taxpayers.”
About 4,000 cats have been killed so far at a cost of around $22 million. USDA publications describe experiments that involve feeding cat hearts, brains, tongues, and other tissue to other cats, as well as feeding cats parts of dogs. In other cases, tissue from cats was injected directly into mice.
The White Coat Waste Project plans to release its full report under the title “USDA Kitten Cannibalism.”
“These were all abnormal diets for cats, dogs and mice so likely irrelevant to natural toxoplasmosis biology,” an excerpt of the report says.
“Their scientific relevance and justification is questionable, at best, as is their relevance to American public health since we do not consume cats and dogs, and the practice is now outlawed in U.S.”