PETA Sues NIH, NIMH Over Brain-Damage, and Fright Experiments on Animals

Agencies Have Failed to Release Public Records Related to Taxpayer-Funded Atrocities

For Immediate Release:
May 6, 2021

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


On Thursday, PETA filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) over their failure to release documents on government-conducted experiments involving food deprivation, near-drowning, electric shocks, and notorious “monkey fright” studies carried out on their Bethesda, Maryland, campus.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires agencies to respond to FOIA requests within 20 working days of receiving them—but PETA has been waiting for responses to some of its requests for more than a year.

PETA’s requests are seeking records related to the NIMH’s taxpayer-funded experiments on animals, including government experimenter Elisabeth Murray’s notorious “monkey fright” studies, for which she cuts into monkeys’ heads, saws off a portion of their skulls, and then injects toxins into their brains to inflict traumatic brain damage before frightening them with realistic-looking fake spiders and snakes. Scientists—including former primate experimenter John Gluck, evolutionary biologist and animal behavior expert Marc Bekoff, and founder of the International Primate Protection League Shirley McGreal—have denounced her experiments as cruel and irrelevant to the human experience, including methods in which Murray deprives monkeys of food and water, surgically attaches head posts onto their skulls, and restrains them for hours at a time. Many are forced to live in social isolation, and all are eventually killed. Murray’s experiments, which have received more than $49 million in federal funds, purport to shed light on human neuropsychiatric disorders—but they have not produced a single treatment or cure for humans in 30 years.

“If the government takes our tax dollars for its animal torture chambers, it’s obligated to be transparent and not hide its atrocities,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA’s lawsuit demands the public records that we need to hold these experimenters accountable—and which we have a right to by law.”

PETA is also seeking records related to NIH experimenter Heather Cameron’s tests on mice and rats, in which she shocks their feet, deprives them of food, restrains them in small Plexiglas tubes, and places them in inescapable beakers of water for up to 20 minutes.

PETA is represented in this case by Nick Lawton of the public-interest law firm Eubank & Associates PLLC. PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on,” which reflects the group’s opposition to speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

A copy of the lawsuit is available upon request.

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