Navaratilova’s Fights “Gay” Sheep Study

We’ve just received a press release informing us that Lezzie tennis star Martina Navaratilova‘s (pictured, looking quite fetching) protesting a tax-funded research program in Oregon aimed at turning so-called “male-oriented” (read: fag) rams straight.
Apparently, scientists at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University are on a two-year track through which they hope to locate, modify, and eventually destroy “gay hormones” in the furry creatures. In response, Navaratilova’s written the presidents of both universities:

How can it be that, in the year 2006, a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments? … I respectfully ask that you pull the plug on this appalling and misguided research. Surely you can find a way to redirect the millions of public tax dollars that are being wasted on these experiments to a more fruitful venture—perhaps by funding a gay and lesbian community center to foster dialogue and acceptance for people of all sexual preferences?

What we don’t understand is how the scientists identify these allegedly homo sheeps. Is there some sort of sheepie gaydar technology of which we are unaware? Do these sissy sheeps go cruising in the local park? Maybe there’s some sort of barnyard homo-hop.

Regardless, it’s gross. While we’re not so keen on animal testing, we’re far more disturbed by science’s obsession with getting to the bottom of the gay mystery. Sure, it would be interesting to know why people are gay (which would finally put an end to the storied essentialist v. constructionist debate), but any essentialist finding – that is, evidence that critters people are born gay – would no doubt be used for some sort of horrific gay holocaust. And not just of the poor sheepies…

We’ve pasted the entire release and Navratilova’s letter after the jump, including the address and fax number of Oregon State University’s President, Ed Ray.

As with our coverage of Garden Guy, Inc. and their homo-hating ways, we urge you to use the information in any way you see fit.

(Update: The PETA rep who sent us the press release wants us to mention that Navratilova wrote the letter on their behalf. So: Navratilova wrote the letter on PETA’s behalf.)

For Immediate Release:

November 3, 2006


Michael McGraw 212-274-8274; [email protected]


Tennis Icon Condemns Cruel Taxpayer-Funded Tests Seeking to Alter Animals’ Sexual Preferences

Portland, Ore. — Openly gay tennis icon Martina Navratilova is condemning hormone-altering experiments on “gay sheep” at Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) that seek to manipulate sheep’s sexual preferences and make them heterosexual. The tests are funded by taxpayers through the year 2008.

In letters faxed to the presidents of both universities, Navratilova writes, “How can it be that, in the year 2006, a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments? … I respectfully ask that you pull the plug on this appalling and misguided research. Surely you can find a way to redirect the millions of public tax dollars that are being wasted on these experiments to a more fruitful venture—perhaps by funding a gay and lesbian community center to foster dialogue and acceptance for people of all sexual preferences?”

OHSU experimenter Charles Roselli is drugging pregnant sheep to prevent the actions of hormones in their fetuses’ brains 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’s cohort, Frederick Stormshak of OSU, has surgically installed an estrogen device in rams’ bodies in an effort to alter “gay sheep’s” sexual preferences and make them heterosexual. According to the grant applications, the experimenters plan to extrapolate the test results to humans—with the insidious implication that homosexuality in people can be “cured.”

Navratilova—who has won nine Wimbledon Women’s Singles championships and, with a record 167 titles in singles and 174 in doubles, holds more overall tennis titles than any other player in history—adds, “For the sake of the animals who will die unnecessarily in these experiments and for the many gays and lesbians who stand to be deeply offended by the social implications of these tests, I ask that you please end these studies at once.”

For more information on the “gay sheep” experiments, please visit PETA’s Web site Navratilova’s letters to OSU follows.

November 2, 2006

Ed Ray, President
Oregon State University
634 Kerr Administration Bldg.
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128

1 page via mail and fax: 541-737-3033

Dear Dr. Ray:

My friends at PETA have drawn my attention to disturbing experiments that are being conducted at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University. These experiments involve surgically installing an estrogen device in rams in an effort to alter gay sheep’s sexual preferences and using drugs to alter sex hormones in fetal sheep.

How can it be that, in the year 2006, a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments? Oregon State’s justifications offered to PETA, which can only be surmised as an attempt to develop a prenatal treatment for various sexual conditions, are nonsense. I respectfully ask that you pull the plug on this appalling and misguided research. Surely you can find a way to redirect the millions of public tax dollars that are being wasted on these experiments to a more fruitful venture—perhaps by funding a gay and lesbian community center to foster dialogue and acceptance for people of all sexual preferences?

For the sake of the animals who will die unnecessarily in these experiments and for the many gays and lesbians who stand to be deeply offended by the social implications of these tests, I ask that you please end these studies at once. Thank you for your consideration.

Martina Navratilova

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  • stebbins

    Give me a break! You’re going to believe what PETA tells you? Trust me, I work with these universities, and there is no intent to change people, abort gay fetuses or eliminate gays from the planet. PETA is just against any type of animal research, and of course, they make up arguments to get people to believe in their cause.

    Here’s what’s really going on:

    OSU Sheep study could help explain human sexuality

    By KATHEY ANEY for the East Oregonian

    CORVALLIS (AP) — Researchers at Oregon State University think that new studies showing that about 8 percent of rams are “male-oriented” have the potential to help explain sexuality in other mammals, including humans.

    The findings, by researchers at Oregon State, Oregon Health & Science University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, suggest that homosexuality may be biologically driven, a hot topic in the perennial “nature vs. nurture” debate.

    “We’re after a basic biological understanding of how the brain works, and the neurons that drive sexual behavior,” said Fred Stormshak, distinguished professor of animal science at Oregon State, and an investigator on the project.

    The study began in 1995, when researchers at the federal Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, noticed that some rams refused to mate with female sheep. Of these animals, some showed no interest in males or females, and a few preferred other rams.

    A refusal to breed can spell disaster in the sheep production industry.

    Stormshak said a key goal is to find a biological test to determine ovine sexual orientation, so breeders can make informed purchases of stud rams.

  • Perceive

    You guys really should at least make half an effort to get the other side of the story:

    PETA outright lied about the scope and aim of the research. Parts of the experiment involve attempts to make male sheep same-sex orientated. Does that mean the scientists trying to find a cure for heterosexuality in humans, too? There are too many other outrageous accusations lobbed by PETA and their accomplice, Navritilova, to refute in a post, but I hope Queerty addresses the other side of the story soon.

  • Shalin Gala

    We at PETA are honored that Martina Navratilova has decided to add her voice to the growing international criticism of these gay sheep experiments, which can only be described as a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity, and a colossal waste of precious research funds. The implications of this so-called ‘research’ are dangerous to the LGBT community.

    Dr. Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Ethics in Public Policy and Corporate Governance at Glasgow Caledonian University, has also written to Oregon State University in protest, stating: “I do think that it is highly ethically questionable whether it is acceptable to subject higher mammals to pain and suffering in the course of research the outcome of which has not the well-being and health of higher mammals in mind. … Considering the health problems the world is facing, it seems remarkable to me that a leading scientist such as Dr. Roselli should concern himself with frankly irrelevant questions. That the pursuit of these research questions should result into pain, suffering and death for higher mammals makes his endeavour all the more questionable.”

    It is indisputable that animals are suffering in these experiments. In addition to being forced to endure invasive surgical procedures—only to be killed and then have their brains dissected—the sheep are kept in solitary confinement for up to nine days. Then, in sexual-preference tests, two male sheep and two female sheep are restrained in a four-way stanchion—which is essentially a “rape rack”—and subjected to the test sheep’s aggressions.

    Also, it is important to note that this is not the first time that animal sexuality experiments have been criticized. Charles Roselli and Frederick Stormshak’s hormone-altering experiments on gay sheep are strikingly similar to German experimenter Günter Dörner’s tests on rodents in the mid-20th century.

    A news release from Roselli’s institution, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), stated that he 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.” Likewise, Dörner postulated that homosexuality could be prevented in rodents by “optimizing” natural conditions or by “correcting abnormal hormonal concentrations prenatally.” Also, the fact that Roselli and Stormshak cited Dörner’s work in their paper (“Endocrine Correlates of Partner Preference Behavior in Rams”) suggests that they are continuing along the same line of inquiry.

    An “Official Statement” published by the German Society for Sex Research in the Archives of Sexual Behavior strongly condemned Dörner’s sexual-manipulation experiments on animals and is not dissimilar to PETA’s objections to the experiments of Roselli and Stormshak: “Günter Dörner … has been investigating the importance of sex hormones for the prenatal development of the human brain for many years. … Dörner’s aim is to eradicate homosexuality by means of radical endocrine intervention during fetal development. … First, [Dörner’s] analogy of sexual motor patterns of rats (lordosis, mounting) with the sexual life of human beings is not only rash and arbitrary but also anthropological nonsense. Second, comparisons between various species show that prenatal or perinatal hormone influences vary considerably even on the physiological level (e.g., as regards the cyclic secretion of sex hormones). Third, clinical observations of prenatal hormone disturbances in humans (adrenogenital syndrome) do not offer any evidence for the validation of Dörner’s hypothesis; even serious hormonal malfunctions of this kind do not favor homosexual development. … [T]he motive and purpose of etiological research [on homosexuality] go hand in hand with the common discrimination against homosexuals in our society. It aims at preventing homosexual development by means of an endocrinological prophylaxis. This, and nothing else, is the underlying interest in Dörner’s research, which openly toys with the idea of endocrinological euthanasia of homosexuality.”

    The parallels between the two experiments are clear: Prenatal hormonal manipulation in animals would be extrapolated to humans with the intent of “correcting” (Dörner) or “altering” (Roselli and Stormshak) their sexual-partner preference.

    Sexuality experiments on animals are also grossly unscientific. Dr. Brian Mustanski of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Psychiatry finds serious flaws in using nonhuman animals to study human sexuality: “[T]here are several problems with [using nonhuman animals] for informing human sexual orientation. Beach (1979) commented that simply because the same descriptive terms are used across species does not guarantee that the underlying concepts are identical. Species-specific behaviors (i.e., lordosis or mounting in rats) fail to capture the full picture of human sexual orientation. A second problem with using animal literature in support of the neurohormonal theory is that the data do not provide unequivocal support for organizing effects, especially for females (Meyer-Bahlburg, 1984). For example, Dörner (1976) showed that only after gonadectomy and testosterone administration in adulthood do early androgen-exposed female rats demonstrate male-typical sexual behaviors. If the experimental rat’s gonads were not removed, they showed a clear predominance of female sexual behavior and only a slight increase in male-typical behaviors. Similar results have been found for female nonhuman primates (Eaton, Goy, & Phoenix, 1973). Additionally, the fact that experimental hormone manipulations can influence sexual orientation in a laboratory does not prove that they do so in normal populations. Meyer-Bahlburg (1984) pointed out a final inadequacy of the animal literature: Hormonal manipulations result not only in a shift of sex-dimorphic behavior, but also in alterations of the genitals. In contrast, homosexual people usually have normal genitalia. Based on these limitations, it is clear that … only data from human studies can definitely establish what role sex hormones play in human sexual orientation (emphasis added).”

    To learn more about why Martina Navratilova is joining PETA’s campaign against these cruel experiments on gay sheep, and to learn how you can take action to help these animals, please visit

    Thank you.

  • Kevin

    I DON’T LIKE THESE EXPERIMENT AT ALL! They clearly want to eliminate gay sheep. And that will be used for humans eventually. It’s really sad.

  • Rick

    I think stebbins and Perceive should learn how to use the Internet, and then do so, prior to making stupid claims.

    They might consider researching the term “animal model.”

    It seems clear from this abstract that Stormshak is indeed interested in rams who have a predilection for other rams as a model of human gay behavior.

    Are stebbins and Perceive claiming that the sheep won’t be hurt, or that it simply doesn’t matter what humans do to them?

    Physiol Behav. 2004 Nov 15;83(2):233-45.
    Sexual partner preference, hypothalamic morphology and aromatase in rams.Roselli CE, Larkin K, Schrunk JM, Stormshak F.
    Department of Physiology and Pharmacology L334, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239-3098, USA. [email protected]

    The male-oriented ram is a unique and valuable animal model for the study of hormonal, developmental and genetic contributions to sexual partner preference. Unlike most other mammalian models that are in use currently, variations in sexual attraction occur spontaneously in domestic ram populations. It is estimated that as many as 8-10% of rams exhibit a sexual partner preference for other males, classifying them as male-oriented rams. …

  • Jim Newman - OHSU

    Listen, let’s seperate the issues. If you are opposed to animal research that’s one thing. (and frankly there are mountains of evidence that it’s necesary) But PETA is trying to unfaily inject hate and bigotry here – and they should be condemned for that no matter how you feel.

    OHSU and OSU have corrected PETA several times in the past couple of months about their offensive claim about trying to cure homosexuality. Despite this information, PETA keeps finding new ways to spread this false information by quoting information out of context and simply making things up. Now they have recruited a tennis star by giving her 10% of the story splashed with false info.

    However, it’s nice that that some realize that PETA’s propaganda is often just that. Here’s some more information gathered by someone unrelated to either PETA or OHSU who learned the truth behind PETA’s false allegations by doing significant research on their own:

    PETA crosses the line

    by emptypockets

    Charles Roselli, a biologist at Oregon Health & Science University, turned on his computer the other day to find that he had been targeted. His research had been lied about, and his reputation insulted. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise for a right-wing group to oppose his science, since his research implies that homosexuality is biologically programmed and part of the natural world, not a “lifestyle choice” or an “abomination.” But it wasn’t a right-wing group that had targeted him. It was PETA.

    Dr. Roselli is part of a vanguard of researchers trying to understand the biological basis of complex behavior. Animal behavior is so complicated that it seems almost impossible that we could ever understand it at the molecular level — but then again, that’s what we thought about embryonic development a few decades ago, and that has turned out to be a beautiful and understandable molecular story. Likewise, complex behaviors are rapidly coming into range as something we can understand in our lifetime. For example, researchers have now assembled a fairly detailed picture of how circadian clocks keep time, synchronizing your body’s internal rhythms to the pattern of day and night.

    Understanding sexual behavior is one of the most exciting areas right now — after all, the preference to mate with one individual over another is a major part of generating new species and therefore a driving force in evolution. Already some major advances have taken place. Catherine Dulac at Harvard University has found that mutating a single pheromone receptor in male mice makes them attempt to have sex with males that intrude on their territory, instead of trying to fight with them. It is absolutely stunning that changing a single gene — even changing a single letter of the DNA code — could have such tremendous and specific consequences on behavior.

    Even more amazing, it turns out that in the fruit fly Drosophila there is a single gene that can confer both male and female sexual behavior. This gene can be read in either of two forms, much like if you and I were each quoting an article you might elide (“…”) one paragraph while I might elide another, keeping the same key information but changing certain details. Similarly, this gene is read slightly differently in males than in females. Forcing males to express the female form of the gene makes them stop mating with females and instead become interested in other males; likewise, females expressing the male form of the gene begin performing the male part of the courtship ritual. If you had said fifteen years ago that sexual preference could be controlled by a single gene, I would have called you a nut.

    But no one has been attacking the work of the fruit fly researchers. Catherine Dulac has not been called “anti-gay” by PETA. Instead, they picked on Dr. Roselli.

    Dr. Roselli’s group studies male-oriented sexual preference in rams, what some pop writers have nicknamed “gay sheep.” You may have read something about it in the news, how he and co-workers found evidence that homosexuality is biological, or at least that there is a biological correlate to same-sex preference, a part of the brain that is of different size in gay males than in straight males, though cause and effect was still undetermined. It could be that sexual orientation determines the size of the hypothalamus, or it could be that the hypothalamus directly regulates sexual orientation. In order to test these possibilities, as the Seattle Times wrote, Dr. Roselli wanted to change conditions in the womb and ask if he could produce higher numbers of gay sheep. This experiment is identical in logic to the mouse and fly experiments described above — you suspect A causes B, so alter A and see if there is an effect on B.

    At this point it’s worth noting that right-wing groups like Focus on the Family are also upset by the consequences of Dr. Roselli’s research. They say homosexuality is a choice, not something you’re born with, and I’m sure they would not like the idea of anyone learning how to make higher numbers of gays. At the same time PETA is lying about his work and his intent, claiming that if he proves homosexuality has a biological origin, it will open the doors to pharmaceutical drugs for “curing” homosexuality, and that that is his real goal. Both groups are off their rockers. They are wrong on several levels, but the most important one is denying the deep cultural component to human sexual behavior. Most animals have sex just to procreate; when’s the last time you did? There is a lot more going on in the mind of a sexually aroused human than pheromones alone, and Dr. Roselli’s group calls the rams “male-oriented” rather than “homosexual” for a reason: they are studying the biological basis of sexual behavior, and “homosexual” is a word laden with culture. At the same time, we would be foolish to think humans have transcended biology completely, and you would have to be appallingly incurious about the world around you not to think it is fascinating to understand how biology drives sexual behavior in other animals, and perhaps influences it in humans.

    So, why did PETA target Dr. Roselli? My first guess, judging by the adorably fuzzy lamb at the top of their campaign page, was the sheep. I emailed Dr. Roselli to ask about it, and to my surprise he was gracious enough to consent to an email “interview” with an anonymous blogger, for which I’m grateful. (I should put in my disclosure here: I myself am a biologist, but I don’t work with vertebrates — other than the ones I eat lunch with every day — and I am not in Dr. Roselli’s field, don’t know him, and have never met him.) I asked Dr. Roselli just how many sheep they use in their experiments, and he told me it averages about 18 sheep per year — 6 male-oriented rams, 6 female-oriented rams, and 6 females. By comparison, I looked up how many sheep Americans eat each year, or at least how many are killed by American meat-packing companies: the answer is almost 4,000,000 per year. It doesn’t seem like Dr. Roselli is Sheep Enemy #1.

    I also asked Dr. Roselli why he felt it necessary to work on sheep, when such terrific progress was being made in mice and flies. He gave an excellent answer, something I hadn’t thought about much before. In the mouse and fly experiments, researchers are manipulating the system to see what kinds of behaviors they can produce — behaviors that tell us something about the underlying biology, but are themselves artificial. Dr. Roselli’s sheep, though, are the way God made them (pardon the expression) — the way evolution has selected for. It is one thing to see what behaviors you can create in a lab, it is something special to study behaviors as they exist naturally in the wild.

    “Sheep are the only species in which a small percentage of males have been shown to exhibit an exclusive same sex attraction,” Dr. Roselli wrote to me. “The behavior was first reported in mountain sheep, but has been more rigorously characterized and studied in domesticated sheep. Using the ram model allows us to do controlled studies to determine the biological factors that may contribute to sexual partner preference.”

    Their hypothesis, he said, is that the same factors that have evolved to control sexual determination and differentiation during development also underlie sexual partner preference.

    So, if PETA isn’t just trying to save as many sheep as it can, perhaps they were alarmed by the “gay” part of “gay sheep.” Why they wouldn’t attack one of the other labs, the ones working in mice or flies, is beyond me, but perhaps there was something about Dr. Roselli I didn’t know. Perhaps he really is a homophobe or a bigot, and PETA has found him out. It seemed strange to me that the only evidence PETA gave for their claim that “Roselli has made it very clear that he intends to use the findings of his experiments to ‘cure’ humans next” was a completely innocuous statement from a grant application: “This research also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans.” I don’t see anything about curing there — I see “understanding” but I don’t see curing. It sounds like normal grant boilerplate to me (good luck getting money from NIH without saying your work is relevant to humans).

    But, like I said, I didn’t know Dr. Roselli — so I asked him. I wrote, “Do you think homosexuality is something that can or should be ‘cured’?” His reply: “No,” he said. “And I find it appalling and offensive that PETA has suggested that I and my collaborators do.”

    If PETA can defend their claim that his intention is to cure homosexuality, I would like to see that. Because it is a damn nasty thing to say. And as far as I can tell, it is a bald-faced lie.

    So what is Dr. Roselli’s intention? Is this research meant to help humans? Here is his reply:

    Like all basic research there are potential benefits from this research at several levels. Sexual behavior is in many ways a hard-wired behavior, especially in animals like sheep. Understanding the developmental control of sexual partner preference as well as the neuroanatomical and neurochemical substrates of this behavior give us a better idea of how the brain works and may give us insights into other sexually differentiated behaviors and neuroendocrine functions.

    Moreover, sexual behavior and sexual partner preference play a fundamental role in reproduction and psychosexual development. There are serious medical conditions that are the result of variations in sexual development, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia and androgen insensitivity syndrome. These conditions may lead to problems of sexual function, social and psychosexual adjustment, mental health, quality of life and social participation. Understanding variations in psychosexual development that may affect these individuals requires reference to studies in non-human species that show marked but complex effects of androgens on sex differentiation of the brain and on behavior. A greater understanding of the biological underpinnings of partner preference may greatly assist in providing affected individuals with the medical services and support that they may desire.

    While human sexuality is more complex than the reproductive and motivational behaviors observed in sheep or rodents, it is anticipated that the use of animal models such as the male oriented ram will help illuminate basic principles that apply to all species and which will be helpful in understanding the biology of human behaviors as well.

    Here is what I take from that: There are a few people with rare disorders who this might help. But mostly, science is about discovery. It is about mapping the internal world, without knowing what you will find — but with the faith and experience that understanding how biology works makes us better, gives us a foundation from which to learn more. It is what drives progress. And, on top of all that, it is often beautiful. Who would have thought a single gene could switch aggression to attraction, or male courtship to female? Who would have thought we could ever understand how our brain works, how and why it makes us do the things we do? Who wouldn’t want to know?

    I appreciate that some of you would say it is not worth it, if it means killing animals. Some of you would say that humans should not experiment on animals, at least on thinking feeling animals, for any reason, no matter how great the prize. In an ideal world, I would feel that way myself. Unfortunately, in this world, I realize that stopping animal experiments would mean an end to meaningful biology. You can make cells do a lot of things in a dish. What matters is what they do in real life, in real animals. Unfortunately, stopping animal research means stopping biology flat.

    There is another discussion well worth having: which experiments are worth it? Is it worth killing an animal to get a life-saving cure? Is it worth it to get a piece of information that fills in a missing puzzle piece, something that could provide the entry point to dozens of life-saving cures? And which experiments are those, and which ones are not worth the sacrifice? It is something anyone who works with animals thinks about, a lot. Although I don’t work with vertebrates now, I used to in my earlier years, and it is not fun. It is tremendously rewarding to be able to gain insight into a system so like ourselves, but it is not fun to kill.

    So that is an important discussion, “which experiments are worth it?” The answer is not just up to the scientist — vertebrate research is heavily regulated, with lengthy approval processes from the government, the state, and the university. In many places, your experiments need to be approved not just by administrators and fellow scientists, but also by members of the community, regular people without scientific training who are put there to make sure that your experiments not only make scientific sense but also make common sense, that they are consistent with what your neighbors would find reasonable.

    Whether killing an animal is worth it for an experiment is an important and always welcome discussion. What’s not welcome is lies. What’s not welcome is propaganda. PETA has joined the company of intelligent designists and global warming deniers, those who misreport scientific research, cherry-pick results, and flat-out lie to further their political agenda. PETA picked Dr. Roselli because sheep are adorable, unlike mice or flies, and because gay rights is a hot-button issue. They lied about his work and his intention because they want to turn as much of the public as they can against scientists who use animals. Lying about and distorting science in a campaign against biology research is something I’ve come to expect from the right, from Kansas school boards and Sen. Santorum. We should not allow it to take root on the left.

  • Larry

    C’mon guys…I can’t believe you’re falling for this PETA bullshit. PETA already manipulated our local Portland fag rag, Just Out, into writing a completely biased article on the research being done at OHSU and now you’re regurgitating the same junk.
    I for one am glad to see real research being conducted on same sex behavior. Why are people so scared of basic research? Finding out that homosexuality has it’s roots in genetics or not won’t invalidate our relationships or lead to some type of homo-cide. It will simply bring us one step closer to understanding society, human behavior, and the role genetics plays in forming our identity.

  • Rick

    Jim Newman seems to think that a long rant serves in place of plain facts.

    He wrote: “If you are opposed to animal research that’s one thing. (and frankly there are mountains of evidence that it’s necesary)”

    This is pure crap. One of the major criticisms of animal research is the lack of data supporting it as a productive research method. The method itself has only very rarely been submitted to rigorous analysis and the results have been dismal (which might explain that why such investigations are so very rare.) Readers might be interested in the BMJ article “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” at

    The rant he pasted in is so filled with falsehoods that it is impossible to rebutt here, which may have been Newman’s goal. But one claim is so grotesque that I can’t let it slide:

    “In many places, your experiments need to be approved not just by administrators and fellow scientists, but also by members of the community, regular people without scientific training who are put there to make sure that your experiments not only make scientific sense but also make common sense, that they are consistent with what your neighbors would find reasonable.”

    Having sat in on numerous IACUCs (the committee required by law to oversee animal research at each institution receiving federal funds or using covered species) , and having read the minutes of hundreds of such committee meetings from around the country, I can say without qualms that the system is a sham.

    We recently learned that the only community member on one committee (each committee is required by law to have at least one; they rarely have more) is a vivisector and chair of the committee at a different institution.

    For those who can actually think critically, the questions that should clear up all the nonsense about animals being well cared for or there being stringent safe guards in place are these:

    Why won’t the labs allow reporters to view and photograph experiments?

    Why has the USDA IG’s office repeatedly reported that the animal research oversight system is broken?

  • Jim Newman - OHSU

    Rick, first of all, it wasn’t a rant…PETA made false claims and I responded. I hope you can agree I have a right to respond. As for the facts, a review of the research we are talking about will reveal that PETA made up their outrageous claim. Again, if they oppose animal research, that’s one thing. But is it really ethical – as PETA’s name advertises – to make things up?

    As for the BMJ article you referenced, I am very much familliar with it. However, if you read it, the paper is not critical of all animal studies. Nor should the information contained in it be construed to proclaim that animal research does not have benefits (see quote below from Yale author). Instead the study demonstrates that animal research studies must always be thoroughly reviewed before they take place for ethical and ultimately financial reasons.

    more info:

    The researchers reviewed six prior research projects where both human and animal studies were conducted and the results compared. The studies reviewed by the research team varied in health topic from stroke medications to laser therapy to promote wound healing.

    The most intriguing conclusion is that 5 out of 6 of the reviewed studies revealed that the animal test results coincided closely or precisely with the human studies. In other words, in almost every example the researchers found that the use of an animal model to test the therapy in question, was a good model and that the same result occurred in humans. What the paper actually showed was that many of the six clinical and animal studies reviewed were poorly designed and that the scientific method (basic science – to translational animal studies – to clinical trials) did not occur.


    “This report is certainly not an argument against animal experimentation. It is a plea for researchers to continually and systematically update and review all the relevant evidence in a particular are of animal research. This parallels what we expect from human research, so that conclusions reached as early as possible about the effectiveness and safety of therapies in animal trials, and duplicative and unnecessary human and animal experiments are avoided.” – Michael Bracken, Yale University


    “[The paper} is rightly critical of five studies in which human trials were started before the lessons of animal research could be learnt – this calls into question whether this animal work was strictly necessary. But the overall message that animal studies contribute little to medicine is misleading. Oddly enough [the author’s] examples demonstrate this rather well. All but one show remarkable concordance between human and animal data.” – Editorial in The Times, UK paper, Author: Mark Henderson

    Curious – did you truly sit on IACUC boards and have concerns but not raise them?

  • Shalin Gala

    It is unfortunante that Mr. Newman of OHSU is resorting to lies about PETA to establish support for his case–flawed as it is. Contrary to Mr. Newman’s claims, PETA did not “ma[k]e up” critiques of these animal experiments; rather, all of our arguments are rooted in fact and supported by evidence.

    Speaking as an openly gay man, I must emphasize the dangerous implications that these animal experiments pose to the LGBT community. If Roselli and Stormshak are altering sheep’s hormonal profiles in utero, it’s naïve to think that such a technique would not someday be tried on human fetuses.

    Roselli himself has stated in one of his articles that part of his experimental focus is studying (and altering) same-sex sexual behavior in humans: “[T]his research also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans. … Although there is no direct correspondence between same-sex sexual behavior in animals and human homosexuality, identifying hormonal and neurological correlates of the expression of same-sex behavior may provide clues to factors (genetic, hormonal, or environmental) involved with or influencing its occurrence in humans.”

    Furthermore, Stormshak has publicly stated that “[i]f people want to extrapolate [to humans the conclusions that he reaches with regard to altering sheep’s sexual orientations], that’s up to them.” Stormshak’s cavalier attitude shows that he places responsibility for the implications of his work on those who want to apply his conclusions to humans.

    Also, OSU’s president has noted that Roselli and Stormshak seek to devise “biological tests that can be used to identify [“male-oriented”] animals, thus eliminating their use ….” This clearly sounds like a program of sexual eugenics in animals; neuroscientist Marc Breedlove extrapolates this point to humans, saying that Roselli’s experiments on gay sheep “tell us that if we want to seek a prenatal influence on human sexual orientation, we should pay attention to testosterone and its target tissues in the brain.”

    Mr. Newman blindly supports the use of animals in laboratory experiments, even though the evidence strongly suggests that such a methodology is terribly flawed.

    For instance, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology & Gender Studies at Brown University, has openly criticized the utility of animal sexuality experiments: “[A]nimal models have to be used with great caution. They are usually badly done for both their application to humans and even for their application to the animals themselves. A badly done study of rat behavior tells us nothing useful about the rats, and is even more useless—if not dangerous—when applied to humans. If we are moving towards creating a more humane society, one that is caring and just, we don’t need animal models. We are on shaky ground if we base civil rights arguments for gay people on the fact that some animals have same-sex sexual encounters. I think that the questions of politics has to be fought on ethics, values and civics—not science. You can select some piece of biology and make it fit, and then someone can disagree and can argue with you—even ‘prove’ you wrong. This is no way to work towards a better society. Biology cannot resolve social equality.”

    Animal experiments have also been shown to be highly inaccurate and unapplicable to the human condition in a variety of other settings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the statistic that 92 percent of all drugs (and 94 percent of all cancer drugs according to a New England Journal of Medicine article) that pass preclinical safety and efficacy testing in animals go on to fail in human clinical trials. The FDA attributes a large part of the failure to the fact that, despite a plethora of modern technologies, scientists cling to outdated preclinical test procedures (such as animal testing). Vioxx, Phenactin, E-Ferol, Oraflex, Zomax, Suprol, and Selacryn are some of the drugs that had to be pulled from the market in recent years because they killed or seriously harmed thousands of people. Despite rigorous animal tests, prescription drugs kill 100,000 people each year, making them our nation’s fourth-biggest killer. Clearly, animal tests are not the vanguard of validity that Mr. Newman would have us believe.

    Also, the very mainstream Diabetes Research Institute recently published a groundbreaking study that showed that the use of rodents in diabetes research is an invalid approach. The accumpanying press release (February 2006) stated: “Now, scientists from the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have shown that the composition of a human islet is so different than that of the rodent model, it is no longer relevant for human studies. … ‘Our major finding is that human pancreatic islets have a unique architecture, and work differently than rodent islets,’ said Per-Olof Berggren, adjunct professor at the Diabetes Research Institute and professor at the Rolf Luft Center for Diabetes Research at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. ‘We can no longer rely on studies in mice and rats. It is now imperative that we focus on human islets. At the end of the day, it is the only way to understand how they function.'”

    Clearly, we are cheating ourselves by relying on animal experiments–the results of which are misleading, inaccurate and dangerous when applied to humans. To learn more, please visit

  • Jim Newman - OHSU

    Shalin, thank you.

    Your own post demonstrates the way you put your false case together.

    You say you have documented proof, yet the first quote you provide actually demonstrates that OSU and OHSU are telling the truth. Clearly in the first quote Roselli is talking about the gaining understanding.

    Here are a couple more quotes from this research group over the years in scientific journals:

    “Although there is no direct correspondence between same-sex sexual behavior in animals and human homosexuality, identifying hormonal and neurological correlates of the expression of same-sex behavior may provide clues to factors (genetic, hormonal or environmental) involved with or influencing its occurrence
    in humans.” Physiology & Behavior 83 (2004)

    ““Human sexuality is obviously more psychologically complex than reproductive and motivational behaviors observed in sheep. Nonetheless, we believe that the use of animal models such as the [male-oriented] rams will help illuminate basic principles that apply to all species, including humans.” – Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb. 2002

    Clearly the researchers have stated that this is research based in understanding repeatedly – long before PETA decided to turn this into a media campaign. You just chose to ignore that information

    As for your other quotes, why are you quoting people out of context?

    Here’s the full quote from Dr. Ray’s leter which you have quoted so far out of context, you have completely changed it’s meaning:

    “It is appropriate to also consider the significance of the research to the sheep industry. There is currently no simple test that can be performed to identify rams purchased at sales or on the farm that will ultimately be asexual or display male-oriented behavior. This basic research may define biological tests that can be used too identify such animals, thus eliminating their use for general breding purposes in large flocks of sheep.”

    When you see the full quote, it’s clearly not sinister as you suggest – it’s simply farming.

    As for the Stormshak quote, it came from a student newspaper – the OSU Barometer – I urge you to look it up online.

    Here’s the full quote without your heavy editing:

    “If people want to extrapolate, that’s up to them,” he said. “But we’re doing this study strictly on the sheep.”

    Here’s another section from the very same article:

    “We are not trying to explain human sexuality by this study,” Roselli said.

    “Our model is the ram model, and we have no interest in getting involved in the human aspect of this,” Stormshak repeated his colleague’s concerns. “Our research pertains specifically to the sheep. We are not trying to extrapolate our data that we’ve acquired from studying these rams to the human being.”

    Shalin, if you read the entire article, and not the info taken out of context, the message is very clear. It also clearly demonstrates your misuse of select quotes.

    You claim that I blindly support the use of animals in research. I actually work at a university hospital and research institute and have seen animal studies translate into lifesaving research. I have met people who were planning their own funerals and remain alive today thanks to research that started in animals. I would say I have alot of experience in this area and that my experience is anything but blind. In reality, it’s been very eye opening.

    As for all of your anti reseach comments, they were clearly cut and pasted from PETA materials. I could cut and paste lots of data demonstratting the importance of animal research,Iinstead I suggest that readers do their own homework from a variety of resources. Don’t take my word, don’t take PETA’s

    Finally I found your following statement puzzling:

    “Speaking as an openly gay man, I must emphasize the dangerous implications that these animal experiments pose to the LGBT community.”

    Why does your own sexual preference fit into this argument? My mother is gay and I wouldn’t do a thing to change that. Does that make me more of a credible source?

  • Jordana

    Someone asked why labs don’t allow people to come in and photograph experiments; I’m assuming they mean the objective, professional news media. We do let the media come in and photograph our animals, as long as they can do it as safely as possible for all parties concerned. Where we need to draw the line is letting people who aren’t accustomed and trained to be in our labs have unlimited access. It’s risky enough in the non-animal areas: Last spring, for example, a major TV news network was interviewing one of our researchers in our library and one of the crew members tripped over his light stand and knocked it over. He caught it before it came crashing down on the researcher or the furniture.

  • Marc Breedlove

    Dear Shalin,

    You quote me as saying that the gay sheep indicate that if there is a prenatal influence on human sexual orientation, that it is likely to be testosterone. But you present this statement with the sloppy logic that this means there is some program of “sexual eugenics in animals”, which is nonsense. More importantly, you suggest that all of this research is somehow geared toward controlling sexual orientation in humans, which is even dopier. Just because we have evidence that prenatal testosterone affects the probability of homosexuality, it does not follow that one could ever manipulate sexual orientation. I, for one, don’t think such a program would ever work, quite apart from the point that such a program is completely unneeded.

    Please don’t distort my quotes to support your paranoid ideas about sexual eugenics.


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