OUTRAGEOUS: Johns Hopkins University Skirts Law to Continue Experiments on Owls

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Update (July 11, 2022): If you’re an experimenter who cuts into and torments owls for a living, did so illegally for years, and was then barred by your state from killing those animals, your days of mangling owls’ brains should be over.

But not so in Maryland, where officials have just shamefully green-lit Johns Hopkins University’s deadly business as usual regarding the mutilation of owls on its campus.

PETA neuroscientist Dr. Katherine Roe issued the following statement:


Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is skirting Maryland law, with the complicity of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR), to continue invasive and deadly brain experiments on owls.

There’s no dispute that JHU broke the law by conducting these tests for four years without having mandatory state permits—and taxpayers have been footing the bill to the tune of $1.9 million. After PETA exposed this illegal activity, MD DNR issued a new permit, which JHU also violated by killing owls. The department then issued another permit that specifically barred the killing of these animals, which should have ended the experiments. However, it appears that MD DNR has now colluded with or bowed to pressure from JHU to circumvent the law by issuing the school a separate new permit that allows for business as usual. It’s not clear that this permit is legal, and PETA will be reviewing the situation.

JHU is also falsely claiming that experiments, which have resulted in no benefits to a single human, are important to the understanding of human autism, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder—almost throwing in the common cold—even though psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and people with common sense are saying that they absolutely are not. The experiments—which involve cutting into barn owls’ skulls, implanting electrodes in their brains, forcing the birds into plastic tubes or jackets so cramped that they can’t move their wings, clamping their eyes open, and bombarding them with sounds and lights for up to 12 hours—will continue for the present, despite their worthlessness. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) own analysis tool (“Translation” tab) indicates that JHU’s owl experiments have a shockingly dismal 5% “approximate potential to translate” to human health, and PETA caught experimenter Shreesh Mysore admitting that attaching bolts to animals’ skulls in order to hold their heads in an unnaturally fixed position might cause him to “misinterpret what’s happening or misunderstand” the results.

NIH must immediately cut funding for JHU’s experiments on owls or risk being complicit in the blatant corruption of science and the law.

If you haven’t done so already, please add your voice to ours by taking action below.

Update (June 16, 2022): After PETA informed Maryland state Senator Ben Kramer of the cruel, wasteful, and illegal activities conducted by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) owl experimenter Shreesh Mysore, the lawmaker sent powerful letters to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and JHU asking for confirmation that the barn owls’ mutilation and torment have ended, and to otherwise end the torture tests on these sensitive birds.

Mysore—who from 2015 to 2018 failed to obtain mandatory permits to possess barn owls legally for use in his experiments and who admitted in his federal funding application his plan to kill the owls, even though doing so would void his legally required “Scientific Collecting” permits—has received more than $1.9 million in taxpayer money from NIH to mutilate owls’ brains.

Kramer asserts in his letters that Mysore is not exempt from Maryland law and should refund the taxpayer money he spent on illegal activities, be barred from receiving future federal funding for these experiments on owls, and have his current MD DNR permit revoked if he’s continuing to kill owls in his tests after that agency explicitly barred him from doing so on May 12, 2022. (See details below.)

Update (June 9, 2022): Victory! PETA has just obtained new documents from the state of Maryland that should end the torment of barn owls at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Earlier this month, PETA complained to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) that the permit that the agency had issued to JHU experimenter Shreesh Mysore allowed him to kill owls after using them in invasive brain tests (see details below), pointing out that state law strictly forbids this practice.

The new documents confirm that MD DNR has revoked that permit because it was “inconsistent” with state law—in other words, ILLEGAL—and has issued him a new one stipulating that he can’t kill birds. Since killing them and examining their mutilated brains is how Mysore has been making a living, this should end his horrific experiments on owls.

We’ve written to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds Mysore’s useless work, pointing out that he can no longer fulfill the terms outlined in his NIH grant application, in which he calls for killing the owls. So NIH, which has confirmed it’s currently investigating our complaint, needs to yank its support for these experiments, which have so far wasted more than $1.9 million in taxpayer funds. We’ve also written to JHU’s president with the same message.



Original post:

Let’s say 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 in order to disorient them, until their brains are scrambled. When the birds couldn’t take it anymore, you’d just kill them, because they’d be of no use to you anymore.

This isn’t what you’d do? Of course not. That sounds like a nightmare straight out of the Inquisition or Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.

barn owl

But it’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 over $3.7 million in taxpayer funds—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 U.S. residents 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, not throwing away precious research dollars on demented junk-science experiments in which intelligent and sensitive owls are tortured.

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

Dr. Michael F.
Chiang, M.D.
National Eye Institute

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