Med School On Blast After Hamsters Die in ‘Social Defeat’ Experiment

Published by Zachary Toliver.

PETA is demanding action from government officials after two hamsters—who were forced to fight one another inside a locked cage—died in a botched experiment at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Morehouse School of Medicine©iStock.com/trgowanlock

According to federal documents obtained by PETA, the two hamsters were fatally injured during a “social defeat model session” conducted by an inexperienced student experimenter. This procedure is as cruel as it sounds: It’s used to make one animal completely surrender to another more aggressive one. Typically, a male is introduced into the home cage of another dominant, aggressive male of the same species—and the latter quickly attacks the one he sees as an intruder and attempts to force him to submit.

As stated in the federal report, a student experimenter locked the hamsters in the same cage for five minutes. The student failed to separate them, as was required by the experimental protocol. The student—whose actions should have been overseen by the experimenter in charge—also failed to keep records and was “not adequately trained in identifying and reporting hamster health issues [including] wounding,” according to the federal report. Sounds like just the person who should be entrusted with the lives of vulnerable animals, right?

One hamster died just shortly after the experiment. The other one had sustained multiple wounds on his back, neck, and haunches. A veterinarian described the hamster as extremely lethargic and said he was grinding his teeth. He died two days later. We can only imagine the agony these individuals suffered up to and during their last minutes.

Forcing stressed hamsters into deadly conflict is more than bad science. It’s an outrage.

PETA has filed a complaint with the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). We’re urging OLAW to investigate and demand repayment of any federal money that may have been used to conduct the portions of the experiment that violated federal animal-welfare guidelines.

We know that it’s unethical to use humans in manipulative, harmful, or dangerous experimentation—especially without informed consent. This same ethical principle should apply to other animals. We’re all sentient beings with the capacity to feel pain and emotions like sadness, grief, loneliness, and fear. Animals and their experiences matter, and torturing living beings in laboratory experiments is categorically wrong.

Help End Tests That Torment Animals

In the same cruel spirit of forcing two anxious hamsters to defend themselves, right now, experimenters are dropping small animals into beakers of water, where they must swim until they’re exhausted and can no longer stay afloat.


Learn more about useless, forced swim tests on The PETA Podcast:

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“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