Like a teenager with a bad report card, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) didn’t want the world to see video evidence that experimenter Andrey Ryabinin got a bunch of male voles drunk on alcohol in tests designed to see if they’d be “unfaithful” to their female partners. So it did everything it could to hide it.
OHSU lied about having photographs or videos of the experiments. It said that the videos belonged to a different institution and then suggested that any videos that might have existed had been destroyed. It lied so much that PETA had to file a lawsuit … then expand that lawsuit … and expand it yet again to cast a net wide enough to ensnare all the evidence.
All PETA wanted was the visual proof—proof we knew OHSU had all along—that experimenters had slaughtered 150 prairie voles in an experiment so thoroughly unscientific and so patently ridiculous that it would be more believable as the plot of a Scooby-Doo cartoon than as a serious intellectual pursuit.
After years of legal wrangling, PETA has that proof—and now, so do you.
We also have proof that OHSU repeatedly lied to keep the public from knowing what happened to $3 million in taxpayer money behind closed laboratory doors.
To pull off this abomination, OHSU experimenters used 150 voles—small, socially monogamous mammals, similar to mice, who care for their young and protect their mates. They kept the voles in complete environmental impoverishment inside plastic shoeboxes.
Experimenters then paired males and females arbitrarily for just one week before separating them, after which the male voles had free access to water and alcohol. Some drank the equivalent of 15 bottles of wine daily, which you might do, too, if you were confined to a plastic box.
In one of a battery of tests—the “partner preference test”—experimenters put a male vole into a cage where his partner was tethered on one end and another female was tethered on the other end. Experimenters measured how much time the male spent with each female. This, the argument goes, is supposed to somehow shed light on alcohol’s effects on human male infidelity.
In the “resident intruder test,” the experimenters dropped a male vole into a cage to which another male vole was already confined and watched as the animals fought, counting how many times the “resident” would lunge at, bite, or chase the “intruder.”
OHSU experimenters killed all 150 voles and dissected their brains and the fetuses of any pregnant females at the end of the tests.
What the Adults in the Room Say
This “experiment” was unsound and unscientific on its face. But just to put a somewhat finer point on it, experts have weighed in:
“An arbitrarily created, weeklong relationship isn’t an appropriate model for a human partnership, vole biology doesn’t mirror human biology, and these experiments are nothing more than a curiosity-driven boondoggle with a serious body count,” says PETA Science Adviser Dr. Frances Cheng. “Even as alcohol-addiction programs cry out for funding and relationship counseling is cost-prohibitive for many couples who need help, the federal government has squandered more than $3 million of taxpayers’ money on the OHSU projects that funded these cruel and pointless experiments.”
“The notion that the male from this ‘bonded pair’ should have loyalty toward the female based on the one week of ‘bonding’ is ludicrous. Unlike these preposterous experiments on voles, studies on human volunteers would provide useful and reliable insights on several levels—including socially, culturally, and physiologically,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Sana Gaitonde.
Lying Liars Who Lied Repeatedly
In 2018, PETA submitted several public records requests to OHSU asking for records associated with these experiments, including photos and videos.
OHSU officials responded with two lies.
- Lie #1: OHSU had no photos or videos.
- Lie #2: Any videos that did exist were the property of the other lab, so PETA should ask it for the videos.
As if things couldn’t get any crazier, while litigating this suit, PETA discovered that at least two OHSU police officers, including the police chief, had received near-daily intelligence-style updates on PETA’s activities from a company called Information Network Associates (INA). Oregon law prohibits law-enforcement agencies from collecting such information unless it relates directly to a criminal investigation. In addition to giving the university other “threat” updates, INA told it about PETA’s blog posts and social media activity.
That’s how desperate OHSU was to keep its cruel, ridiculous, and deadly experiments hidden from the public whose money it gleefully gobbles up.
Those Meddling Kids From PETA
It took more than two years of legal wrangling and expanding lawsuits, but PETA was finally able to unmask OHSU, expose its web of lies, and reveal the truth.
- Fact #1: OHSU experimenters did record videos of the experiments.
- Fact #2: An OHSU experimenter deleted the videos in a deliberate attempt to hide them. They were later found during a forensic audit that PETA secured. The experimenter said he deleted them so they “would not fall into the wrong hands.”
Level Heads Finally Prevail
In a double victory for PETA, a judge ruled not only that OHSU had violated Oregon’s public records laws by failing to hand over the videos and photos requested by PETA but also that OHSU police had illegally surveilled PETA’s activities, a violation of our First Amendment rights.
As punishment, OHSU must now pay for much of the court costs associated with the case.
And we have the videos.
What You Can Do
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—part of the National Institutes of Health—continues to squander hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars every year on Ryabinin’s cruel and worthless alcohol and “pair bonding” experiments on voles. Please ask the agency to redirect funds to modern, superior, non-animal research methods instead.