Feds Use Your Tax Money to Torture Owls at Johns Hopkins—It Needs to Stop

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Update: May 11, 2021
It’s official: Shreesh Mysore’s brain-mangling experiments on owls at Johns Hopkins University are cruel and useless and, according to a Maryland state agency, have been illegal for years.

After we supplied evidence to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that from 2015 through 2018, Mysore failed to obtain permits needed to imprison and torture owls in his laboratory, it confirmed that he had indeed broken the law—with public funds.

Given this flagrant violation of state law, we’ve urged the DNR to revoke Mysore’s current permit to keep owls in his laboratory and to prohibit him from obtaining future permits.

Mysore has also apparently violated the terms of his grant, so we’ve also sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demanding that it recoup grant money that it wasted on these taxpayer-funded experiments while Mysore didn’t have the legally required permit—since NIH grant recipients must comply with state laws—and deny future grant requests.

We’ve also demanded that Johns Hopkins end Mysore’s experiments, given his illegal activity in addition to the cruel and worthless nature of his experiments. (Please see details below.) Indeed, NIH itself has reported that his experiments on owls have a shockingly dismal 5% “approximate potential to translate” to human health, determined by the very low likelihood that his published papers will be cited in later clinical trials or guidelines.

If Mysore can’t adhere to state law, he shouldn’t be allowed to conduct complex brain surgeries on live animals.

Please add your voice to ours by taking action below.

Update: February 23, 2021
Shreesh Mysore may treat barn owls like unfeeling pieces of lab equipment (see details below), but they’re a legally protected species. So experimenters in Maryland must obtain permits to lock them in their laboratories. However, when PETA requested proof of Mysore’s permits through the state’s Freedom of Information Act, we discovered that the ones for 2015 through 2018 were missing. Apparently, neither Mysore nor anyone else in his lab had bothered to apply for or obtain them.

If experimenters can’t even bother to file simple paperwork with the state, they shouldn’t be allowed to conduct complex brain surgeries on live animals. Given this apparent flagrant violation of state law, we’ve sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urging it to revoke Mysore’s current permit to keep owls in his laboratory and to prohibit him from obtaining any permits in the future.

We’ve also sent a letter to the National Eye Institute requesting that it end its taxpayer funding of Mysore’s hideous and useless experiments on owls.

Update: October 7, 2020
PETA has obtained damning evidence showing that Johns Hopkins University (JHU) experimenter Shreesh Mysore appears to have violated Maryland law by failing to obtain a legally required permit to possess protected birds for his invasive brain experiments. In addition, he recently admitted that the traumatic methods that he uses in his experiments may produce misleading results.

Translation: Mysore's experiments are apparently illegal and useless, and he knows it.

PETA has fired off complaints to the National Eye Institute—which funds this fiasco—and JHU, calling on both institutions to put an end to this junk science.

Update: March 17, 2020
PETA has fired off a letter to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) today and released damning reports and photographs obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that reveal the extent to which animals imprisoned in the university's laboratories suffer as a result of negligence, incompetence, and a stunning disregard for their lives.

JHU's violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act include locking highly social monkeys in solitary, barren cages with no enrichment as well as a number of horrific deaths endured by animals imprisoned at the school. In one instance, a worker closed a cage door on a marmoset monkey, killing the animal. In another, a monkey was found dead with her head stuck inside a ball used for "enrichment."

What's more, in light of its campus shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, JHU has ordered its experimenters to identify "critical animals to be maintained," presumably leading to the mass killing of countless others who aren't considered "critical"—which begs the question Why were these animals forced to endure cruel and painful tests in the first place?

Now more than ever, it's imperative that Shreesh Mysore's laboratory be shut down so that the owls imprisoned in it can be sent to a sanctuary.

Original post:
Let's say that you want to help find an effective treatment for people with attention-related disorders.

Your first thought, naturally, would be to breed a bunch of owls, cut their skulls open, screw and glue metal devices to their heads, clamp their eyes open, and then restrain them for up to 12 hours and pelt them with lights and sounds to disorient them until their brains are scrambled. When the birds can't take it anymore, you'd of course just kill them, because they're of no use to you anymore.

No? Of course not. This sounds like a nightmare from the Inquisition or Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.

barn owl

But that's exactly what experimenter Shreesh Mysore is doing at Johns Hopkins University today. He's been harming owls in these ways since 2013, and now, he intends to kill between 50 and 60 more in the same manner, all while pretending that this torment has some kind of bearing on humans with attention-related disorders, such as ADHD. And he's being bankrolled—to the tune of more than 1.5 million taxpayer dollars—by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a federal agency that's part of the National Institutes of Health.

This is where taxpayer money is going—and it effectively makes American citizens stakeholders in Mysore's ongoing owl torment, like it or not.

It doesn't have to be like this. The NEI should be funding human-relevant science that benefits actual patients suffering from debilitating conditions, not throwing away precious research dollars on demented junk-science experiments in which intelligent and loving owls are tortured and killed.

Take action today by telling the NEI that it's time to shut off taxpayer funding for Mysore's cruel experiments on owls.

Tumminia, Ph.D.
National Eye Institute

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