GUILLERMO: Is A Rodent Fight Club Scientific? Either Way, You’re Paying For It

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Kathy Guillermo Contributor
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Supposedly serious scientists at Northeastern University in Boston for decades ran a taxpayer-funded rodent fight club where experimenters pitted hamsters — some hopped up on cocaine or anabolic steroids — against each other in violent bouts.

It was supposed to emulate inner city street gangs.

Experimenters injected hamsters — sometimes drilling into their skulls to inject aggression-inducing drugs directly into their brains — and watch, videotape and even score the fights as the hamsters bit, scratched and lunged at each other. Like some bizarre college basketball tournament, the “winner” of one fight would “advance” to the next round.

The Hamster Fight Club continued for 20 years, generously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $3 million in taxpayer money. PETA launched a campaign and former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake lambasted it in his “Wastebook” of misused government funds. The financial spigot was mercifully shut off in 2017.

If this was only one egregious example of NIH wasting taxpayer money, that would be one thing. But this is an agency that spends about 47 percent of its annual budget on experiments that use dogs, rats, monkeys, mice and other animals as human “models” of human physiology — experiments that rarely, if ever, result in cures or effective treatments for humans. In fact, a full 95 percent of all new drugs that test safe and effective in animal tests fail in human clinical trials.

So if we’re not getting effective treatments, what are we paying for?

Not much.

NIH gave more than $35 million to one of its own experimenters so that he could intentionally induce depression, anxiety, and fear in baby monkeys. Infants were torn away from their mothers, stuffed into tiny cages, and terrorized with loud noises. The experimenter responsible for this cruelty admitted publicly that his results had not yielded medications for humans suffering from mental illness, but NIH funded him for more than 30 years.

After an all-out campaign by PETA and help from members of Congress, NIH finally closed this laboratory.

More than $3 million went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison so that experimenters there could torment cats in “sound-localization” experiments. They were subjected to invasive surgeries on their ears, skull, and brain. Cats were chemically deafened and then deprived of food for days in order to make them comply during procedures in exchange for a bite to eat. One named “Double Trouble” became conscious while experimenters cut into her head. The experiment proved useless: No peer-reviewed papers were ever published as a result, and it was deemed a failure.

This laboratory, too, was closed after a PETA campaign.

But we can’t close them all. Animals are currently being tormented in invasive experiments to study loneliness, obesity, drug addiction, sadness, child abuse, and a host of other ailments they would never normally experience. Then there was this recent headline: “Duke tested the marketing appeal of sex and power on monkeys.”

NIH, which is charged with overseeing the health of the nation, funds cruel experimentation that produces nothing but misery and pain for animals and precious little for humans in return. It is not a boon to science. It’s an impediment — a giant, expensive roadblock to real treatments and cures — and it needs to end now.

Kathy Guillermo (@KathygFromPeta) is a senior vice president at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.