Johns Hopkins Owl Torture Tests: Confirmed Useless, Apparently Illegal

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

Update: February 23, 2021

Shreesh Mysore may treat barn owls like unfeeling pieces of lab equipment, but they’re a protected species. So experimenters in Maryland must obtain permits to lock them in their laboratories. However, when PETA requested proof of Mysore’s permits through the state’s Freedom of Information Act, we discovered that the ones for 2015 through 2018 were missing. Apparently, neither Mysore nor anyone else in his lab had bothered to apply for or obtain them.

If experimenters can’t even bother to file simple paperwork with the state, they shouldn’t be allowed to conduct complex brain surgeries on live animals. Given this apparent flagrant violation of state law, we’ve sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urging it to revoke Mysore’s current permit to keep owls in his laboratory and to prohibit him from obtaining any permits in the future.

We’ve also sent a letter to the National Eye Institute requesting that it end its taxpayer funding of Mysore’s hideous and useless experiments on owls. Please add your voice to ours by taking action below.

Cutting into owls’ skulls to expose their brains, screwing and gluing metal devices onto their heads, poking electrodes around in fully conscious birds’ brains—at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Shreesh Mysore does all this and more, even though he admitted during a seminar that the results of his experiments on these animals in his lab could be misleading. Listen for yourself:

The recent, damning audio recording was included in the complaints that PETA filed earlier today with the National Eye Institute (NEI) and JHU, as was newly released evidence showing that Mysore—a taxpayer-funded experimenter—has apparently violated Maryland law.

In the audio recording, Mysore acknowledges that experimenting on owls whose heads are surgically fixed in place could “change the way the brain is solving problems, and we might misinterpret what’s happening or misunderstand if we do this in head-fixed animals” [emphasis added]. Yet in his experiments, he does exactly this—attaching bolts to owls’ skulls in order to hold their heads in a fixed position.

Johns Hopkins University owl torture

This owl is one of many imprisoned in Shreesh Mysore’s laboratory, where he cuts into their skulls and screws metal devices onto their heads in curiosity-driven experiments with no relevance to human health.

Furthermore, he locks the animals in restraining devices for up to 12 hours at a time, clamping their eyes open and bombarding them with noises and lights—just like in the sci-fi horror film A Clockwork Orange. Only for Mysore’s victims, the torture is real.

It also appears that Mysore violated Maryland law in failing to obtain a legally required permit from 2015 to 2018 to possess protected birds for experiments, which are currently slated to be performed on 50 to 60 barn owls, including six just for surgical practice for his staff.

So in addition to being cruel, these horrifying experiments are apparently illegal and admittedly worthless.

This is why PETA is calling on the NEI to pull the plug on its $1.5 million grant to Mysore and for JHU to end this junk science.

Barn Owls Need Your Help, Too

Join PETA and tens of thousands of supporters who’ve already e-mailed the NEI to urge it to stop funding Mysore’s experiments, which cause owls immense suffering. Click below to take action for barn owls:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind