OP-ED: The 2023 Farm Bill provides an opportunity to address this cruelty and waste by including Violet’s Law

Posted by Amanda Nieves
06 October 2023 | Blog


The 2023 Farm Bill provides an opportunity to address this cruelty and waste by including Violet’s Law
Originally Published by San Diego Union-Tribune    |    October 3, 2023    |   Written by Mackie Burr

California lawmakers on the Congressional Agriculture Committees are currently hashing out what will be included in the 2023 Farm Bill, which sets federal agricultural policies for the next five years. Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates animal experimentation, the Farm Bill also presents an opportunity to impact what happens to thousands of hapless dogs, cats, and other animals locked in government testing labs.

“That’s Violet’s Law, a bill requiring federal testing labs to allow animals to be retired and adopted out to the taxpayers who bought them, instead of killed, when experiments end.”

While many of the Farm Bill’s provisions will be controversial, inclusion of one commonsense measure backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, before her death, and by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Rep. Young Kim, R-Anaheim, and other lawmakers from the California delegation should garner unanimous support. That’s Violet’s Law, a bill requiring federal testing labs to allow animals to be retired and adopted out to the taxpayers who bought them, instead of killed, when experiments end.

Violet’s Law is named after a lucky hound who was adopted by one of my colleagues from a taxpayer-funded lab nine years ago last month. Violet is one of the lucky ones. Currently, most adoptable dogs, cats, and other regulated animals in federal government labs are killed at the end of testing, even when they’re healthy and would make great pets. It’s a harsh reality and especially wasteful given that these animals often cost taxpayers thousands of dollars each.

“Fortunately, we worked with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel, and others in Congress to successfully shut down the USDA’s kitten slaughterhouse and get the surviving cats into loving homes, including with our group’s president and founder.”

For instance, a few years ago, our government watchdog group, White Coat Waste Project, exposed how a Department of Agriculture laboratory was wasting millions of tax dollars to breed kittens and, among other nightmares, force them to eat cat meat purchased in China’s wet markets in disgusting cannibalism experiments. The kittens were healthy and adoptable after the experiments, but for 40 years the government lab “killed and incinerated” thousands of them anyway. Fortunately, we worked with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel, and others in Congress to successfully shut down the USDA’s kitten slaughterhouse and get the surviving cats into loving homes, including with our group’s president and founder.

“White Coat Waste’s lobbying and grassroots Give Them Back campaign have prompted multiple government agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pentagon to implement formal policies allowing the public to adopt these animals. The VA’s policy even calls it an “ethical obligation.”.”

Since then, White Coat Waste’s lobbying and grassroots Give Them Back campaign have prompted multiple government agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pentagon to implement formal policies allowing the public to adopt these animals. The VA’s policy even calls it an “ethical obligation.” The effort is already saving lives. After the creation of its lab animal retirement policy and pressure from White Coat Waste, experimenters at the VA changed course and adopted out cats that they had initially planned to kill.

Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other federal agencies that experiment on animals have not yet agreed to make adoption an option.

But the 2023 Farm Bill provides an opportunity to address this cruelty and waste by including Violet’s Law and creating a pathway for eligible animals at all federal agency labs to be adopted by taxpayers (or placed in a non-laboratory setting like a sanctuary or rescue) when they are no longer needed for government experiments. It’s a homegrown idea, too. In 2016, California enacted its own lab animal retirement law.

“After the creation of its lab animal retirement policy and pressure from White Coat Waste, experimenters at the VA changed course and adopted out cats that they had initially planned to kill.”

Violet’s Law has been co-sponsored by over 135 members of Congress from both parties. That’s especially impressive given the political divisiveness in Washington today.

Unsurprisingly, national polls show that three-quarters of taxpayers support this effort. The initiative is also being backed by a diverse coalition of organizations concerned with animal welfare and government waste including White Coat Waste, California’s Advancing Law for Animals, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Free The People, and others.

“Violet’s Law has been co-sponsored by over 135 members of Congress from both parties.”

Adding Violet’s Law to the Farm Bill would be a significant victory for animal protection and fiscal responsibility, a unique intersection that offers the chance to make a meaningful and bipartisan impact that will be celebrated by Americans across the political spectrum.

Taxpayers bought these animals, and we want Uncle Sam to give them back!

Mackie Burr is a vice president at the nonprofit government watchdog White Coat Waste Project and lives in Oceanside.

You can help! Please take a moment to send a pre-written email to your members of Congress urging them to pass Violet’s Law.

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