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University of Minnesota makes most ridiculous animal research list

A U of M Ph.D. student used taxpayer funds to research the link between hamsters' diets and sex drive.
A U of M Ph.D. student used taxpayer funds to research the link between hamsters' diets and sex drive.

A University of Minnesota study investigating how dieting affects the sex drive of hamsters has been singled out by In Defense of Animals as one of the most ridiculous animal experiments of 2011.

IDA criticizes the experiment on two fronts -- one, as a waste of taxpayer funds, since the research was paid for by three publicly funded National Institutes of Health grants; and second, as a waste of time, since what's the use of understanding how diet affects a hamster's sex drive in the first place?

Said IDA Research Director Eric Kleiman: "With unemployment sky-high and our economy still suffering from the Great Recession, the [NIH] still spends billions of your tax dollars every year to fund animal experiments. Our own research indicates that this is little more than 'white-coated welfare' for experimenters living off a grant gravy train funded by hard-hit American taxpayers."

More detail about the U of M's controversial study comes from the IDH's Real Ridiculous Research list:

What would Goldy the Gopher think about the U of M's animal research?
What would Goldy the Gopher think about the U of M's animal research?
Scientists at Lehigh University and the University of Minnesota found that putting hamsters on a diet had no significant impact on their abilities to perform or enjoy sexual intercourse, although they appeared less motivated to initiate it. Female hamsters who had been fed 75 percent of what they would normally eat for 8-11 days tended to spend more time with food and less time with male hamsters when given a choice between them. They also hoarded more food -- big surprise.

This study was supported by three NIH grants: two from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and one from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The NIH has an annual budget of $32 billion. Its mission is "to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability," but the experiments on the Real Ridiculous Research list suggest some of the studies it funds stray far from that goal.

Here's how the IDH summarizes some of the other studies that crack this year's top ten list: "Alligators' sounds and anatomy differ from humans'," "Lemon-fresh scent can induce erections in monkeys," and "Rats find Miles Davis is better with cocaine." The most ridiculous experiment of 2011? Tulane University's hard-hitting study that concluded "Labs are stressful places for monkeys." No shit, Sherlock.


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