Openly “gay” tennis pro Martina Navratilova has joined the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in condemning researchers at two Oregon universities for trying to learn how to turn “gay sheep” into heterosexuals.
In letters faxed to the presidents of Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University, Navratilova wrote: “How can it be that, in the year 2006, a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments? … I respectfully ask that you pull the plug on this appalling and misguided research.”
Navratilova’s announcement generated a small firestorm in the homosexual press, with the UK’s Gay.com reporting that the researchers’ ultimate goal was “to extrapolate the test results to humans – with the insidious implication that homosexuality in people can be ‘cured.'”
“For the sake of the animals who will die unnecessarily in these experiments and for the many gays and lesbians who stand to be deeply offended by the social implications of these tests,” Navratilova wrote, “I ask that you please end these studies at once.”
The researchers, however, are concerned primarily with the economic – not social – implications to sheep producers of non-mating stock.
Researchers at the Dubois, Idaho, federal sheep experiment station first reported the refusal of some rams to mate with female sheep in 1995. Of the celibate rams, some showed no interest in either males or females but others preferred other rams.
“This is a costly problem for sheep producers because breeding rams are worth $300 to $500 each,” said Stormshak in 1997. “Outwardly, there is no way to tell whether a ram is male-oriented so the producer runs the costly risk of buying an animal that will never produce any offspring.”
Sheep producers lose thousands of dollars each year from the purchase of breeding rams that turn out to be male-oriented, Stormshak added. About eight to 10 percent of total ram numbers are male-oriented, he said.
Stormshak’s analysis of tissue and blood samples led to the finding that male-oriented rams converted less testosterone to estrogen in their brains, and that these rams have reduced capacity for production of testosterone, compared to female-oriented rams. In his research he has tested estrogen implants in the brains of male-oriented rams to see if it would change behavior.
OHSU researchers found a difference between “straight” and “gay” rams in one region of the hypothalamus. While the region is generally twice as large in rams as in ewes, in male-oriented rams it was nearly identical in size to hat in normal females. Similar differences have been found in the brains of homosexual men, but since most of those studied had died of AIDS-related illnesses, scientists were unable to say whether the condition was related to disease or sexual orientation.
The work of OSU and OHSU researchers was cited by New Scientist in 2002 as an apparent confirmation of the controversial suggestion that there is a biological basis for homosexuality.
Identifying brain structure in a sheep is fatal for the animal so researchers are currently trying to find ways to block brain-altering hormones in pregnant sheep to prevent changes in their offspring that affect mating behavior.
For Navratilova and PETA, that is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“Surely you can find a way to redirect the millions of public tax dollars that are being wasted on these experiments to a more fruitful venture – perhaps by funding a gay and lesbian community center to foster dialogue and acceptance for people of all sexual preferences?,” the tennis star wrote.