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Experimenters at Colorado State University (CSU), led by Gregory Ebel, are using our tax dollars to trap American crows, American robins, and house sparrows; infect them with West Nile virus (WNV); watch as they develop symptoms from the infection; and kill them. Confinement alone causes tremendous stress to the trapped birds, and this is compounded when they're injected with WNV strains and subjected to multiple blood draws, including from their jugular veins.
The birds are kept alive while the virus makes its way into their major organs—the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, and spleen—and central nervous system. They may develop a fever. They lose their appetite and have difficulty controlling their bodily movements. Some species—including American crows—experience systemic infection throughout their bodies followed by multiple organ failure and death.
WNV has had a devastating impact on bird populations, particularly of American crows. But the purpose of Ebel's work isn't to develop a vaccine or treatment for the virus—or to gain new insights into prevention strategies. Rather, these are curiosity-driven experiments, aimed at understanding the behavior of the virus in different host species as an academic matter.
These experiments don't help birds or humans: Ebel has acknowledged that viral mechanisms—how severely a virus attacks the host (virulence) and its ability to cause disease in the host (pathogenicity)—differ radically between bird species. For example, American crows are highly susceptible to and experience high rates of mortality from WNV, whereas American robins are susceptible to the virus but experience low death rates. And these mechanisms are different in humans as well.
Moreover, WNV can be controlled by eliminating mosquito breeding sites. But Ebel has received more than $4.2 million from the National Institutes of Health since 2007 to conduct these experiments—and so they continue.
The birds who are trapped, tormented, and killed by CSU experimenters value their freedom, their families, and their lives. A growing body of evidence has documented that crows are remarkably intelligent and profoundly social beings. They're able to solve complex problems, understand analogies, use tools, delay gratification, and recognize individual human faces—distinguishing between friends and foes (such as Ebel).
Please tell CSU to pull the plug on Ebel's cruel and worthless experiments.
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