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Congress Puts Funding for Russian Labs in Crosshairs

Russian president Vladimir Putin wears a lab coat in 2018 / Wikimedia Commons
• March 14, 2022 12:00 pm

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A group of Republican lawmakers is demanding the Biden administration halt U.S. taxpayer funding for several Russian labs, including one found to have conducted "horrific and barbaric experiments on 18 cats."

Amid Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States is funding four experimental laboratories in Russia. Rep. Lisa McClain (R., Mich.) and five of her Republican colleagues want funding for these labs halted as part of a larger effort by the United States and Western governments to sanction Russia and isolate its economy. The recent disclosure that cats are being brutalized in U.S.-taxpayer labs based in Moscow has heightened the urgency of these calls, the lawmakers say.

"The U.S. government has a troubling history of sending U.S. tax dollars to adversarial countries for cruel and wasteful animal research and testing," they wrote in a letter to the White House that was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "While this recent revelation is enough to make the stomach churn for any American, it is even more infuriating when you consider the fact these foreign grants are still active while Russia is despicably trying to overthrow, by military force, the government of our sovereign democratic ally, Ukraine."

Four Russian labs are receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health, which has come under fire in recent years for partnering with Chinese labs known to conduct controversial experiments. As the coronavirus pandemic spread from China, NIH funding for these labs became a lightning rod in Congress. The disclosure that similar taxpayer-funded experiments are taking place in Russia is fueling concerns about the U.S. funding of experimental sites in adversarial countries. At least 31 labs in Russia and China are permitted to receive U.S. taxpayer money from the NIH specifically for animal experiments.

"Our foreign adversaries, especially ones run by tyrants, should not be given U.S. tax dollars to conduct heinous animal research," the lawmakers write. "This should be a bipartisan, common-sense position. As such, you must take swift and decisive action to block any further U.S. tax dollars from going to Russian research labs."

The White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group that exposes NIH's funding of controversial experiments, revealed earlier this month that the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in St. Petersburg was awarded $550,000 in 2021 for its tests on cats.

"In one ghoulish experiment, 18 healthy cats were ‘decerebrated,' then forced to walk on a treadmill," according to White Coat Waste. "‘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."

In addition to the Pavlov Institute, the United States funds the Gamaleya Research for Epidemiology and Microbiology; the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy Sciences; and the Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Science-Saint Petersburg.

McClain, in addition to calling for the United States to cut funding for these labs, is spearheading legislation that would bar the federal government from funding facilities in other countries, including China, Russia, Venezuela, and North Korea.

Animal experiments are being conducted stateside as well.

The Free Beacon reported in February that NIH is being investigated for spending $2.5 million injecting beagle puppies with cocaine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, an NIH offshoot, was found to have conducted a study in which it "spent roughly $2.5 million of taxpayers' money on cruel tests on six-month-old beagle puppies," according to a House investigation.