Politics

Biden under fire for U.S. funding scientific testing on cats in Russia, despite sanctions

President Biden is under fire for allowing U.S. tax dollars to fund government research in Russia, including “stomach-churning” scientific tests on cats, despite championing economic sanctions against the country for its invasion of Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers say that if Mr. Biden is serious about punishing Russia’s belligerence, the White House needs to stop subsidizing Moscow’s research labs. They note that Russia has four facilities conducting scientific research that are approved by the National Institutes of Health to receive grants funded by American tax dollars.  

“Our tax dollars should never be going to our foreign adversaries, especially as the U.S. puts crippling sanctions on the Kremlin,” said Rep. Lisa C. McClain, Michigan Republican.

The push to end funding for Russian labs comes as the White House has imposed economic penalties on the country’s leadership for its unprovoked war in Ukraine. Since the fighting broke out, Congress has banned imports of Russian oil, while Mr. Biden has levied sanctions on Moscow’s leading oligarchs and financial institutions.

Some Republicans say, however, that those sanctions are meaningless if federal tax dollars continue to flow to Russia’s state-run research labs.

“This should be a bipartisan, common-sense position,” Mrs. McClain and colleagues recently wrote in a letter to the White House. “As such, [the administration] must take swift and decisive action to block any further U.S. tax dollars from going to Russian research labs.”

The White House did not return requests for comment on this article.

Apart from the geopolitical concerns of funding Russian research labs, Republican lawmakers say, U.S. tax dollars should not be going to subsidize “heinous experiments” on innocent animals.

The White Coat Waste Project, an animal rights group, revealed in a study that the NIH provided a grant totaling more than $549,000 to Russia’s state-run Pavlov Institute of Physiology in November. The money, in part, went to fund spinal cord research on unwitting cats.

Specifically, the cats had a portion of their brains removed, while electrodes were implanted in their spines. The animals were then forced to walk on treadmills for hours on end while scientists ascertained the impact on their spinal cords.

“The torture these poor animals are being forced to go through is absolutely inhumane and unnecessary,” said Mrs. McClain. “It’s common sense to stop funding this inhumane research.”

Most of the cats did not survive long after the experiment was finished. In 2018, the NIH provided a similar grant, totaling more than $220,000, to the Pavlov Institute for experimentation on cats.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay white coats in the Russian government to torture and kill cats in wasteful treadmill experiments,” said Mackie Burr, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project. “There are four Kremlin-run animal testing labs that NIH has authorized to receive our money, and U.S. sanctions against Russia should include defunding them.”

The NIH’s funding in Russia is only the latest revelation about the agency’s troubling relationship with powers seen as hostile to the U.S.

Last year, government documents exposed that the NIH had funded scientific research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Experts have long viewed the facility as a possible source for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, given that the pandemic first emerged in the city where the institute is located.  

“At least 31 labs located in Russia and China are still permitted to receive U.S. taxpayer money from the NIH that goes specifically to animal experiments – this must end,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, South Carolina Republican. “Now.”

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