NIH Funds “Cruel and Expensive” Hamster Aggression Research

Per a watchdog group, a study that claimed to identify the gene responsible for hamster aggressiveness has been criticized for unnecessary suffering.

The White Coat Waste Project released a notice to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Program Integrity after acquiring footage showing laboratory hamsters from Georgia State University fighting. 

Researchers utilized CRISPR’s DNA splicing technique to remove the genetic receptor implicated in social behavior control. 

Videos were intended to record these genetically engineered hamsters interacting with unmodified hamsters to determine whether they harmed their counterparts.

As shown in the video, the experiment left one hamster with open sores.

Non-Disclosure and Accountability

While GSU’s statement mentioned NIH grants partially sponsored the study, it failed to comply with the Stevens Amendment, a regulation requiring such disclosures to be accompanied by information about their financing.

This covers the proportion of research money given by the federal government, as well as the monetary amount of federal support.

WCW wrote: “The news release referred to in our complaint breaks this federal law. It doesn’t say how much government money is spent on cruel and wasteful experiments, how much taxpayers paid, and how much came from private sources.”

According to its statement, this is not the first time the WCW complained to the NIH about a range of “wasteful NIH-funded studies.”

In an investigation from 2017, the Government Accountability Office said “NIH officials said they do not explicitly monitor Stevens Amendment compliance.”

“Taxpayers should not be required to fund rogue, law-breaking academics in white coats to decrypt hamsters and transform them into hyper-aggressive bullies that viciously beat gentle hamsters in cage matches,” Jennifer Imhoff, a WCW associate for communications, stated.

“The NIH is hooked on spending money on inefficient animal studies that are opposed by the majority of Americans; it’s time to break the habit.”

The COST Act

“Current law compels recipients of NIH funds to report how they use tax cash publicly, but my office discovered NIH grant beneficiaries typically disregard the law. They are rarely held accountable. That’s intolerable,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) remarked.

After observing many infractions, Ernst and Rep. Ralph Norman, who submitted the very idea to the House in March of last year, filed a bill for greater spending transparency in the Senate.

The Cost Openness and Spending Transparency Act would require all government agencies to strictly follow the Stevens Amendment and punish those who don’t.

“Taxpayers are entitled to know what they are funding,” Norman said. “Because of this, I am spearheading the COST Act, which requires beneficiaries of taxpayer support to record their expenditures or risk having their funding revoked.”

WCW wants the director of program integrity to look into GSU and find out who is to blame.

Director of the NIH Division of Program Integrity, Deborah Kearse, did not answer a request for comment.