A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to bar the National Institutes of Health from providing taxpayer funds to Russia so that it can perform "abusive experiments" on animals.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R., Mich.) and a bipartisan group of 28 lawmakers are pressing their colleagues on the House committee responsible for allocating these funds to stop NIH from funding animal research at Russian labs. Experiments at these labs, they say, are not only barbaric but are enriching Moscow as it wages an unprovoked war in Ukraine.
"Russian laboratories should not be receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars—nor be eligible to receive taxpayer dollars—while the country is despicably trying to overthrow, by military force, the government of our sovereign democratic ally, Ukraine," the lawmakers wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.
The United States, through the NIH, provides taxpayer dollars to at least four Russian labs engaged in animal research, including what lawmakers describe as "horrific and barbaric experiments" on cats and other animals. In November 2021, NIH awarded $549,331 to a Russian lab known to abuse cats, performing grisly experiments such as surgically removing parts of cats' brains and then forcing them to walk on treadmills.
The letter comes as NIH funding has received increased scrutiny over its ties to China and funding for experiments in that country prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. At least 31 labs in Russia and China receive U.S. taxpayer money for animal experiments. These funding channels are now under congressional scrutiny as lawmakers try to block the federal government from partnering with adversarial regimes.
NIH permits four Kremlin-run labs to receive taxpayer funds for animal research, including the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology; the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; the Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences-Saint Petersburg; and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
McClain and her colleagues want language written into the upcoming budget proposal that would bar all U.S. funds from reaching Russian labs that perform research on animals. That language would read: "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to conduct or support, through grants, subgrants, contracts, cooperative agreements or other funding vehicles, research that involves testing on vertebrate animals that will be conducted in Russia."
Experiments at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in St. Petersburg were unearthed earlier this year by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group that tracks government spending.
"In one ghoulish experiment, 18 healthy cats were ‘decerebrated,' then forced to walk on a treadmill," White Coat Waste disclosed. "‘Decerebration' is a procedure in which experimenters cut off a cat's brain function while they are still alive. The cats are knocked out and their brain stems are severed, and sometimes, pieces of their brain are even removed. The ‘zombie' cats then have electrodes implanted into their spines and are forced to walk on treadmills."
McClain told the Free Beacon that the United States cannot fully isolate Russia in response to the war in Ukraine if it provides Moscow with money to perform animal experiments.
"American taxpayer dollars should never be going to our adversaries, especially to Russia, as the United States imposes crippling sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine," McClain said. "It’s common sense that we stop funding research in Russia. The United States is and always has been a center of science and innovation. We should be funding research in America, not unethical labs in Russia."
Justin Goodman, senior vice president of the White Coat Waste Project, applauded the move, saying in a statement that "a majority of Americans agree that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay Kremlin-run laboratories to torture and kill cats in wasteful experiments."