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Source: ISTOCK

The USDA Will No Longer Conduct Lab Tests on Kittens, Will Rehome Remaining 14 Cats

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will no longer conduct parasite testing on kittens, a controversial process that garnered negative media attention over the past year. ARS announced the news in a press release on the USDA's website on Tuesday, April 2, noting that the cruel research method is ceasing immediately. According to NPR, since ARS began this taxpayer-funded research several decades ago, scientists have experimented on and killed thousands of kittens. The agency says it is currently working on rehoming the remaining cats.

For decades, ARS has used kittens to study on Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), one of the planet's most common parasites. The parasite, which NPR notes is often picked up by eating undercooked contaminated meat, can cause the disease toxoplasmosis. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis are typically flu-like, including body aches, headache, fatigue, fever, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the Mayo Clinic. While many people who contract toxoplasmosis do not actually show symptoms, toxoplasmosis can cause death in people with weakened immune systems (such as pregnant people, infants, the elderly, and people with HIV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).