Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More on 'gay sheep' research

I have finally made a decision re PETA's request to support their quest to have 'gay sheep' research at Oregon State University stopped. Here's the background of the story. On October 19, 2006 I wrote this letter to the Principal of the institution...

Dear Dr Ray:

PETA contacted me some time ago with regard to research undertaken by your Dr Roselli and colleagues. This, I assume, is primarily due to
the fact that I am reasonably well-known in the field of bioethics and
also perhaps due to my outspoken views on biological research on
sexual orientation.

I have since contacted Dr Roselli with questions pertaining to his
research. He chose not to respond. Assuming that his mail bag has
grown a bit since PETA's campaign, I won't fault him for that.

Having said that, based on my understanding of his research, he seems
interested in questions pertaining to the sexual orientation (and
their alterability) of higher mammals, with the main focus of his
research being sheep.

I should be honest, unless I misunderstand the research in question, I
think Dr Roselli's serves no health related purpose. Once his
questions have been answered one way or another, there are no health
benefits flowing either to sheep or any other higher mammals,
including humans. I do think that it is highly ethically questionable
whether it is acceptable to subject higher mammals to pain and
suffering in the course of research the outcome of which has not the
well-being and health of higher mammals in mind.

Equally, while I do not subscribe to the view that Dr Roselli himself
is driven by any kind of homophobic agenda, I cannot see how any
research results he might come up with would not be seized upon by
people with precisely such an agenda.

This brings me to the question of whether or not such research ought
to be undertaken. For better or worse, I have spend five years
working in a leading Southern African medical school. Considering the
health problems the world is facing, it seems remarkable to me that a
leading scientist such as Dr Roselli should concern himself with
frankly irrelevant questions. That the pursuit of these research
questions should result into pain, suffering and death for higher
mammals makes his endeavour all the more questionable.


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