Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Gay Sheep" killed in search of "cure"?

Meant to post this the other day when I got it but forgot to do that until just now...

Okay... PETA *is* nutz, and usually I don't trust anything I get from them because they're just too extreme and have a bad tendency to exaggerate information, just as their extreme right-wing counterparts do... but apparently, these experiments have been confirmed by other sources, not just PETA. I'm most disturbed by the scientists' claim that they will apply these findings to humans. I'm even more disturbed by that than I am by the news that they are receiving public funding for this study. "GATTACA" or "Brave New World" anyone? This is sick, sick, sick!

The following is copied from the PETA website:


Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) have received thousands of letters and e-mails protesting their unethical hormone-altering experiments on "gay sheep". In response to this public outcry, the universities are now scrambling to come up with excuses to justify the experiments, but they don't have a leg to stand on. Please read our detailed letter to OSU, which refutes all the school's allegations.

In addition to being blacklisted as one of PETA's picks for the 10 worst laboratories for conducting crude and useless experiments on monkeys, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) is now facing public condemnation from animal rights and gay rights advocates and scientific experts for its ill-conceived "gay sheep" experiments.

At the heart of these multimillion-dollar experiments, which are funded by taxpayers through the year 2008, is the goal of hormonally manipulating sheep's sexual-partner preferences to be heterosexual. These experiments also carry the insidious implication that homosexuality in humans needs to be "cured". OHSU experimenter Charles Roselli is killing scores of sheep and cutting open the brains of rams he calls "male-oriented" (homosexual) in an attempt to find the hormonal mechanisms behind homosexual tendencies, so that they can subsequently be changed.

Roselli is also working with experimenter Frederick Stormshak of Oregon State University (OSU), who has surgically installed an estrogen implant in the bodies of rams in an effort "to restore tissue levels of estrogen comparable to those of heterosexual rams and affect sexual behavior accordingly."

In a March 5, 2004, news release issued by OHSU, the university admitted that Roselli and Stormshak would "like to know whether sexual preferences can be altered by manipulating the prenatal hormone environment, for instance by using drugs to prevent the actions of androgen in the fetal sheep brain."

Equally disturbing is the experimenters.. stated intention to apply their findings in sheep to humans. This is highlighted in Roselli's application for public funding from the National Institutes of Health: "The [sheep] experiments proposed in this application will furnish important information that is needed to formulate and test novel hypotheses about the biological basis of sexual orientation in higher mammals including humans." Roselli goes on to note in one of his published journal articles that "this research also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans."

This is not only a needless slaughter of animals and an ethically indefensible experiment; it has also been condemned by experts on scientific grounds. Dr. Malgosia Cegielski, a Portland-based clinical psychologist, calls Roselli's gay-sheep experiment "frivolous" and "frightening." She says: "I don't see any clinical utility or human benefit with what he's doing. The gene expression and biological differences at a cellular level between [nonhuman] animals and humans is so huge. To draw conclusions between animal behavior [and] humans is a joke."


Wouldn't go so far as to say "to draw conclusions between..." is a joke, because there are parallels between human and animal behavior, if not biology, but certainly this experiment does seem frivolous. I don't have a problem with killing animals for food or even other reasons on a small scale, for science, etc... So that they are killing rams doesn't bother me... What bothers me is that they are doing experiments with the intent to apply the results, whatever they are, to human biology... that they are potentially intending to "correct" or "cure" something which I don't think we have any business even saying needs to be corrected or cured.


ilana said...

Yikes. That's just.. disgusting. Animals exhibit behavior which might appear to be homosexual, but is a natural display of dominance according to the herd/pack heirarchy. I find it truly annoying that people persist in this sort of stupidity! I don't remember who the author was, but someone once wrote a dialogue between a minister and a wasp who laid its eggs in the body of a caterpillar; the minister was convinced that the wasp's behavior was evil, while the wasp was simply engaging in behavior that is true to its nature. Human moral labels DO NOT APPLY TO THE ANIMAL WORLD! I agree... shame on them!

Rachael said...

Shame on them indeed!

Human behavior labels are too widely applied sometimes, but I'm not entirely convinced that saying that some animals exhibit homosexual behavior is one of those instances. Animal behaviorists have observed behavior in some species which indicates a clear preference on the part of some individuals for others of their same biological sex, such as noted here, Eclectic much?: Yes, Virginia, there are gay penguins... , and in Bruce Bagemihl's Biological Exuberance. They're quite certain that, at least in some cases with some species, there's more going on than hierarchical displays.

With these "gay sheep," they are dealing with rams that consistently mount other rams and do not mount ewes, even when given a choice. They've found in other studies that the "gay sheep" also exhibit hormonal differences from "normal" rams while sill in the womb. In this study, they are dissecting brains and various other sheep body parts and they are trying to artificially "correct" the hormone levels in fetal rams to change their "male-oriented tendencies." If their hypothesis proves to be correct, they want to apply the same mechanism to human biology, that this in particular is why humans can be homosexual and that it can be "fixed" the same way...

What I so strongly object to is anyone saying that this is something that "needs to be corrected," as if there was something wrong with the natural behavior. It also makes me think of the movie GATTACA, where some humans were considered better than others because they'd had all their genetic bugs worked out before they were born.