‘Real Ridiculous Research’ fueled by tax dollars

Everyone hates taxes and almost everyone loves animals. So, what better way to commemorate the IRS filing deadline than by revealing how your money is used to fund what one animal rights group calls “Real Ridiculous Research?”

Patin, Emslee and Arielle, chimpanzees, at the New Iberia Research Center in New Iberia, La., Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo)

Patin, Emslee and Arielle, chimpanzees, at the New Iberia Research Center in New Iberia, La., Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo)

In Defense of Animals today released its annual list of research that animals, and maybe humans, could do without.

Researchers linked to Emory University made the list twice.

Coming in at No. 8 is a study by Emory experimenters that suggests prairie voles (mouse-like critters) raised in single parent holes do a poor job of raising children. Now we know who to blame when Vole Jr.  appears on Intervention, addicted to researcher sunflower seeds.

And did you know researchers at Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center have discovered chimpanzees are more likely to yawn after watching familiar chimpanzees yawn when viewing a stranger? This interesting fact earns a No. 5 ranking on IDA’s “Real Ridiculous Research” list. A Science Daily article spills the bananas, if you wish to learn more.

Topping the list is a discovery even a yawning primate could have told you: Labs are stressful places for monkeys.

Researchers at Tulane determined lab rhesus monkeys showed “abnormal behaviors” such as rocking or pacing back and forth while watching other monkeys being physically restrained and injected with anesthetic. I feel my mental health is greatly unimproved just by reading about it.

Here’s some more interesting research made possible by your tax dollars.

  • Rats prefer no music to classical or jazz, unless they are hopped up on cocaine, then they prefer Miles Davis to Beethoven … and to be honest, who born in this century doesn’t.
  • The smell of lemons can cause monkey arousal, if you make a monkey smell lemons every time he experiences jungle love.
  • Dieting hamsters still enjoy sex, but those who’ve been given 25 percent less food for more than a week will spend a little more time with food than with potential sex partners.
  • Rats injected with a substance that gave them arthritis were less likely to hit the ole exercise wheel.

IDA couldn’t tell me how much money was spent on any of the ground-breaking research, but did say the work was funded by National Institutes of Health grants. The NiH has an annual budget of $32 billion and funds roughly a third of all health-related research in the United States.

Spokesman Eric Kleimnan said IDA believes no animals should be used for research, and that NiH grants could do a better job of furthering the federal agency’s mission, which is, according to the NiH website, “making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.”

A spokeswoman for the Yerkes center said the research cited by IDA “have the potential to lessen the impact of psychiatric and social disorders on families and the greater society.”

In an email, Lisa Newbern said:

In one study, Yerkes researchers found there is a negative lifelong effect on the brain that stems from adverse early life experiences. Such knowledge is key to future studies focused on identifying the brain chemistry involved in forming social relationships and developing treatments to halt the impact of psychiatric diseases.

In another study, researchers focused on how social biases strengthen or weaken empathy, as demonstrated by contagious yawning. Such knowledge of emotional connections between individuals has therapeutic treatment applications in that autism, bias and bullying are all associated with impairments to normal empathy functioning.

“These behavioral studies and others at Yerkes are leading to results we believe will be key in forming social foundations that strengthen our society,” said Newbern.

Yerkes did not respond to a specific request for more information about the cost of the studies.

23 comments Add your comment

David Lee

April 17th, 2012
3:04 pm

Did anyone try to contact Emory University for a response?


April 17th, 2012
3:17 pm

Maybe the ajc should do some experiments that involve using journalists to do the writing… “the animal rights activists couldn’t provide actual facts to support their claims about tax dollars, but I’ll pass off the claim as fact anyway”… Whoooops.

Well aren't you just oh so insightful....

April 17th, 2012
3:38 pm

Voles should not be raising children… but thanks for the exacting language and insight (…. not).


April 17th, 2012
3:44 pm

Seriously. When will we be able to read the news here? Ben is right. Get w the program.

And Voles are probably cheaper than nannies. So maybe I’ll look into hiring TWO for after school care.

Chris Smith

April 17th, 2012
3:56 pm

The negativity in Atlanta is dragging this city down folks. Whitney Houston doesnt die everyday I’m afraid. Maybe you all should read TMZ instead.


April 17th, 2012
3:59 pm

The people of Atlanta would be better served if the AJC eschewed the cheap Fox News “Government Outrages for Slackjaws” imitiation and actually reported some news every now and then.


April 17th, 2012
4:30 pm

Everyone knows that all the AJC articles are written out of the Cox Dayton, Ohio newsroom nowadays. This paper is just a thin veneer.


April 17th, 2012
4:38 pm

Good grief. Your tax dollars at work.


April 17th, 2012
6:53 pm

I prefer Beethoven to Davis.


April 17th, 2012
7:01 pm

If you would like to know how much was spent by NIH to fund this research go to http://report.nih.gov/index.aspx. According to this website, Emory has been awarded over $65 Million in funding from NIH in FY2012, and the year isn’t over yet. In FY 2011 Emory received over $292 Million.


April 19th, 2012
11:59 am

Thank you for the insight into millions of dollars that are wasted every year on animal research. The research community has known for decades that animal research doesn’t help people — but it is a very lucrative business for the researchers and for colleges. Emory can’t point to a single cure. They waste time and money on animal research while our loved ones die. It is a scam of epic proportions. And, the cruelty that is involved in torturing the animals is unspeakable. Yerkes (at Emory) has had Wenka, a chimpanzee, held in research for more than 50 years. Yet, after more than 50 years of torturing her with ridicules experiments (so that they can line their pockets with more grant money) they refuse to release her to a sanctuary. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org) — real doctors who do real research and want real cures.

Julie Robertson

April 19th, 2012
12:00 pm

Emory received $370.7 million in 2011 in federal grants, $318.8 from the NIH. That information is from Emory’s website. But hey, what is a few million to us, when we can have this vital information about voles and chimpanzees. I have observed my cats doing the same thing with the yawning, and my observation did not cost anyone a dime.


April 19th, 2012
12:28 pm

I am just reading comments on this and am horrified at this tax waste and such cruelty. I could hardly believe this post above and so googled, yes it is true, there is a chimpanzee that they have been researching on for 57 years. All the information is on freewenka.com and another website call projectR&R. My eyes have just been opened; I will never feel the same as I drive past Emory knowing this horrible cruelty is going on inside. They need to turn Wenka over to a sanctuary.

Sarita Raturi

April 19th, 2012
12:50 pm

I am horrified to learn that this 57 year old chimpanzee is in research her whole life. I just googled and found this website freewenka.com. I think everyone should read this!
Atrocities are no less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called research.


April 19th, 2012
1:18 pm

I find it astonishing that the most recent comments regarding this article have to do with the integrity of the reporters and the reporting of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It is a matter of public record that these research labs do in fact exist and thrive on our tax dollars. Between funds received from both the National Institute of Health and Government Grants, Yerkes Laboratory at Emory University received a total of nearly seven hundred MILLION dollars in 2011 alone. Please educate yourselves! It is a crime that this money is being wasted on needless experiments. I urge you to read about the alternatives to using animals for scientific research, ESPECIALLY on research that is unnecessary.

Also – a side note to anyone in the Atlanta Georgia area – the Georgia Animal Rights and Protection Group will be staging a peaceful protest at the stone gate of Emory University (across the street from Everybody’s Pizza on North Decatur Road) to free wenka this saturday, april 21 between 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. I hope that some of the writers and journalists from the AJC will show up to report on this! Thank you.


April 19th, 2012
1:54 pm

“Research” is great business for universities. Emory received $539,700,000 last year from grants and external funding agencies. It is scandalous. Perhaps a better researched article could address this waste.

William Aberdine

April 19th, 2012
2:03 pm

How about this monumental waste..?
Since the 1980s, BILLIONS of dollars have been wasted attempting to infect chimpanzees with human AIDS and then cure them. What??!
Chimpanzees cannot contract human AIDS! They are monkeys!
So researchers infected these animals with monkey AIDS and tried to cure that.
Then, in 2006, Emory stopped doing the chimp-AIDS experiments because it “wasn’t practical.”


April 19th, 2012
2:15 pm

An investigation needs to done into the policies and waste of Emory University. The university has received billions in funding– What have they accomplished? (Besides the great insight into vole parenting!)

Mo Brock

April 20th, 2012
9:31 am

I guess I’m not sure when it became so that animal abuse wasn’t news.


April 20th, 2012
11:07 am

I think we should start an organization called IDAP – In Defense of Airline Passengers. They probe us too – right? We better stand up for ourselves!
Oh and its too bad that no one is mentioning the fact that the amount of money spent bombing people in other countries (which was over double the amount spend in research in the same amount time)…well that’s not considered cruel and wasteful use of our tax dollars?
Jesus people, wake up.

Reality Check

April 20th, 2012
11:10 am

I’m sure this will just get deleted by the administrators…..but everyone needs to open their eyes whether you are against animal research or not…. LIES such as we read above do NOT get us anywhere. I am ALL for the welfare and wellbeing of ALL creatures, I can truly and honestly say I am not a speciesist and I treasure all creatures BUT………………..

This article is sadly nothing more than a group with a VERY specific agenda that found a study (or several) they THOUGHT it would be easy to pick on (and it was….all they had to do was LIE and SENSATIONALIZE a few studies)…. we liberals love to hate on conservatives for being in the bubble (as Bill Maher says)…..well WELCOME to OUR liberal bubble! :(

We aren’t going to get anywhere spreading lies like this, Mr. Mathis. But good luck with that…I mean, it seems to be working out REALLY well in Washington and Wall Street, so I guess why not the media?


April 20th, 2012
12:09 pm

@Pey: “The research community has known for decades that animal research doesn’t help people — but it is a very lucrative business for the researchers and for colleges. ”

Wow, what an SERIOUSLY ignorant comment….why is ignorant…let me explain?
a) animal research has been helping people (and other species of animals) for years. To say otherwise is just a flat out lie, I’ve watched my sibling spend the last 6 yrs of their life getting an education to help people through animal research and it has opened my eyes (as an animal lover and liberal). Next time you take ANY medicine, thank the researchers and animals who provided your with that medicine…..

b) There is nothing lucrative about this business, my sibling and their lab has had to beg and beg and beg for ANY money to do research, because its all going to bomb PEOPLE our country doesn’t like instead of HELPING AMERICANS. Most researchers have to count every penny and dime to make their research count….and for most of them, all they want to do is help people…. If they were all about money, they probably should have become an MD or a Wall Streeter.

Again, you need to thank these brilliant people for sacrificing the possibility of a REAL financially lucrative career and instead are using their very intelligent brains so allow people like you to live longer and make more uninformed and stupid comments.


April 21st, 2012
8:44 am

@SouthernBelle, great then tell us the date that animal research cured cancer, how about aids? Actually, please name ONE — just ONE cure that has come out of Yerkes in 50 years. We’re waiting… And, next time all of those people who have died or been seriously injured by all of the drugs that are introduced to the market and then pulled off I will thank people like your sibling who is doing NOTHING to help people but will surely make lots of money off of taxpayers. Animal research delays good science. http://www.pcrm.org.