In July, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the agency of the National Institutes of Health run by Anthony Fauci, gave more than half a million dollars to the veterinarian school at Kansas State University to fund an experiment, which is still ongoing, that involves infecting beagles with mutant versions of a bacteria that’s transmitted by ticks. The experiment, which was discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request by the White Coat Waste Project, is the latest item on a long list of gruesome animal tests underwritten by Fauci’s NIAID.
The $536,311 payment was this year’s installment of what has so far totaled $5.6 million in NIAID funding for the research project, which began in December of 2007 and is scheduled to end in 2024.
A 2020 paper based on the experiment’s findings reported that, for that funding cycle, the researchers bought 18 six month-old beagles from a commercial breeder. The researchers created mutant strains of the bacteria Ehrlichia chaffeensis in a laboratory and infected the beagles with them. The E chaffeensis bacteria can cause fever, respiratory distress, weight loss, bleeding disorders, neurological disturbances, anemia, bleeding, lameness and eye problems in dogs. After infecting them, the researchers allowed 200 ticks to feed on each of the beagles for a week, to see whether the ticks would take up the mutated versions of the bacteria. For the next two months, they drew the dogs’ blood for testing. Then they killed them.
For the new funding cycle, the researchers proposed continuing this experimentation on 138 more beagles, with 250 ticks per dog.
When asked whether NIAID considered this experimentation humane, a spokesperson emailed: “The use of animals in a grantee’s research is ultimately overseen by his or her own institution’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)” and referred me to Kansas State University.
The Principal Investigator on the project declined to speak when reached by phone, and the “authorized official” at Kansas State did not respond to a voicemail and an email seeking comment.
Over the past week, Anthony Fauci, the NIH and NIAID have been widely criticized both in the media and by elected officials for their funding of grisly experiments on dogs and other animals. In response, NIH’s defenders have described the attacks as a “partisan hit job” motivated by unrelated political differences over Fauci’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank called it a “disinformation campaign” and part of a “crusade against Fauci.” Self-described “fact checkers” amplified Milbank’s claims.
Milbank’s basis for disputing the reports rests on NIAID’s denial that one of the experiments described in news reports was funded by the institute. In that experiment, which was conducted in Tunisia, sedated beagles’ heads were placed in mesh cages and swarmed with starved sand flies that fed off of the live dogs. The sand flies carried a parasite that produces the disease zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis, or ZVL. The NIH denied funding that research, telling Milbank and other outlets that a paper produced by the researchers who conducted that experiment “mistakenly cited support from NIAID.”
Milbank took NIAID’s claims at face value. But there’s reason to be skeptical of NIAID’s position. In 2019, NIAID paid the researchers who conducted the disputed experiment $167,000 to fund experiments on beagles in Tunisia, with the aim of developing a vaccine for the disease ZVL. The disputed experiment that was reported in the media was conducted by the same scientists and also involved beagles in Tunisia infected with ZVL. The experiment appears to be related to the research that NIAID acknowledges funding; certainly the researchers, who credited NIAID with funding it under the 2019 grant, believed it to be.
However, the disputed experiment did not directly involve a vaccine — a detail that NIAID, and its defenders in the media, apparently believe lets the institute off the hook. Once the experiment began receiving negative publicity, NIAID sought to distance itself from the project. Because the 2019 grant was for research into a vaccine, and the disputed experiment did not directly involve a vaccine, NIAID now claims that it did not fall under the scope of the grant and should not have been reported as such.
It’s a technical distinction without a difference, but it was enough for a willfully credulous Milbank to dismiss not only the Tunisia experiment, but the entire story of the decades-long history of NIAID-funded animal experimentation as part of “an endless game of gotcha by Fauci’s right-wing critics.”
Milbank’s branding of politically problematic news as right-wing “disinformation” is becoming a routine tactic of defenders of the political establishment in the corporate media. We saw it with the lab leak hypothesis of the origin of SARS-CoV-2, we saw it with the Hunter Biden laptop story, and now we’re seeing it with Fauci’s long history of funding stomach-turning experiments on animals.
But the evidence is incontrovertible. Descriptions of the tests are abundant and publicly available. They paint a picture of Fauci as, at best, a bureaucrat who is callously indifferent to the suffering of the animals that he and his institute pay millions of taxpayer dollars to subject to pain and misery. It’s an image distinctly at odds with the heroic portrait cultivated by the press. But it’s the bleak reality behind the mythical gloss.
2018 video co-produced by Glenn Greenwald and me on a lab beagle supplier: