DawnWatch: NY Times front page on gay sheep experiments 1/25/07

January 26th, 2007 3:28 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Jan 25, 2007 5:09 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: NY Times front page on gay sheep experiments 1/25/07

The front page of the New York Times has a story headed, “Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science And the Perils of Bad Publicity.” The article, by John Schwartz, covers protests against experiments at Oregon Health and Science University on gay sheep.

It opens:

“Charles Roselli set out to discover what makes some sheep gay. Then the news media and the blogosphere got hold of the story.

“Dr. Roselli, a researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University, has searched for the past five years for physiological factors that might explain why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. The goal, he says, is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep. Other researchers might some day build on his findings to seek ways to determine which rams are likeliest to breed, he said.

“But since last fall, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started a campaign against the research, it has drawn a torrent of outrage from animal rights activists, gay advocates and ordinary citizens around the world — all of it based, Dr. Roselli and colleagues say, on a bizarre misinterpretation of what the work is about.

“The story of the gay sheep became a textbook example of the distortion and vituperation that can result when science meets the global news cycle.”

The article continues in that vein, slanted to suggest that those protesting the experiments have misrepresented them. It does, however, acknowledge “that the sheep are killed in the course of the research so their brain structure can be analyzed.” And buried towards the bottom it mentions a release that quoted Dr. Roselli as saying that the research ”also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans.”

But it then continues:

“Mr. Newman, who wrote the release, said the word ‘control’ was used in the scientific sense of understanding the body’s internal controls, not in the sense of trying to control sexual orientation.

”’It’s discouraging that PETA can pick one word, try to add weight to it or shift its meaning to suggest that you are doing something that you clearly are not,’ he said.

“Dr. Roselli said that merely mentioning possible human implications of basic research was wildly different from intending to carry the work over to humans.

“Mentioning human implications, he said, is ‘in the nature of the way we write our grants’ and talk to reporters. Scientists who do basic research find themselves in a bind, he said, adding, ‘We have been forced to draw connections in a way that we can justify our research.”’

That suggests that Roselli is willing to say anything convenient in order to get his research grant — and perhaps to protect his reputation when the story hits the news.

The article ends with a quote from Paul Root Wolpe, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the university’s Center for Bioethics: ”I’m not sure I would let him off the hook quite as easily as he wants to be let off the hook” and then,

“The prospect of parents’ eventually being able to choose not to have children who would become gay is a real concern for the future, Dr. Wolpe said. But he added, ‘This concern is best addressed by trying to change public perceptions of homosexuality rather than stop basic science on sexuality.”’

The article opens the door for letters from those who are not comfortable with animals being killed for “basic science on sexuality” any more than for attempts to cure homosexuality.

You’ll find the whole article on line at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/science/25sheep.html.

The New York Times takes letters at letters [at] nytimes.com.

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)

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