University Faces Flak Over Deadly Taxpayer-Funded Alcohol Experiments on Voles

PETA Questions Study’s Scientific Integrity and Relevance to Humans

For Immediate Release:
November 29, 2017

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Portland, Ore.

After learning about Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) recent deadly experiments on prairie voles—ostensibly aimed at understanding the impact of alcohol consumption on human male fidelity—PETA fired off a letter this morning to OHSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee calling on the oversight body to investigate why these bizarre, pointless, and deadly experiments were given institutional approval.

The experimenters subjected 150 prairie voles—small, monogamous mammals who care for their young and protect their mates—to impoverished living conditions in plastic shoeboxes. Males and females were paired arbitrarily for one week before being separated and given free access to water and alcohol. The voles were then used in a battery of tests apparently aimed at studying the impact of alcohol consumption on “partner preference” and aggression. When the tests ended, the animals were killed and their brains and fetuses were dissected.

In its letter, PETA criticized the multiple assumptions made by the experimenters: that a week-long relationship stemming from the arbitrary placement of a pair of voles inside a cage could faithfully model a human bond, that a male vole’s decision to lie adjacent to a female who wasn’t his “partner” could predict human infidelity, and that data on the neurocircuitry of voles might reliably be applied to humans.

“An arbitrarily created, week-long relationship isn’t an appropriate model for a human partnership, vole biology doesn’t mirror human biology, and these experiments are nothing more than a curiosity-driven boondoggle with a serious body count,” says PETA Science Adviser Dr. Frances Cheng, Ph.D. “Even as alcohol-addiction programs cry out for funding and relationship counseling is cost-prohibitive for many couples that need help, in 2017 alone, the federal government has squandered more than $800,000 of taxpayers’ money on the OHSU projects that funded these cruel and pointless experiments.”

OHSU has a long history of violating basic animal welfare regulations and guidelines. PETA’s exposé of its laboratory revealed that monkeys were terrorized by staff, denied veterinary care and pain relief, and driven insane by confinement to tiny, barren cages. The U.S. Department of Agriculture fined OHSU nearly $12,000 in 2012, issued an official warning to the facility in 2014 for death and injury resulting from failures in veterinary oversight, and issued another warning in 2016 when a monkey died after becoming entangled in a chain.

PETA’s letter is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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