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LSU biological sciences professor Christine Lattin is under fire from PETA for her treatment of birds in her studies.

PETA filed a lawsuit against LSU concerning Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Christine Lattin, who is conducting a taxpayer-funded experiment on sparrows.

The experiment allegedly involves trapping sparrows, pumping them with sex hormones, exposing them to terrifying calls from predators, and then killing them, according to Tasgola Bruner, media manager at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The lawsuit is requesting that the University disclose records related to the experiments being conducted, which is required by the Louisiana Public Records Act. 

“Louisiana’s residents have a right to know if their tax dollars are funding the abuse of birds in LSU’s laboratories,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said. “PETA looks forward to receiving these records and learning how sparrows lived and died for Christine Lattin’s cruel experiments.”

Lattin has denounced the harassment that she is receiving from PETA and she believes that her research is justified.

“PETA has been harassing me for almost four years now and this is all part of the same campaign of harassment,” Lattin said. “Using litigation is one of their well-known tactics for going after researchers.”

She said that PETA is just looking for “free publicity” and the opportunity to “raise money.”

Her research includes understanding how different hormone and neurotransmitter systems help wildlife successfully find mates, raise young and deal with environmental challenges like predator attacks and severe storms.

“A focus of my work is trying to understand the stress response, specifically, how stress switches from being something that helps animals survive to something that causes negative effects,” Lattin said. “I’m also very interested in what makes some individuals vulnerable to stress while others are more resilient.”

She also said that she believes that her research is relevant to human health, as many people suffer from stress-related disorders and illness. 

Animal studies at LSU are governed by federal animal care and use regulations including the Animal Welfare Act and United States Public Health policies, according to LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard.

“LSU, like all institutions that conduct animal studies in the United States, has an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, or IACUC,” Ballard said. “LSU’s committee has eleven members that include veterinarians, scientists, and a nonscientist member of the public.”

Their job is to review all proposed animal studies to make certain that the use of animals is appropriate and that steps are taken to ensure the best animal treatment possible, according to Ballard.

He said that Lattin is an “expert” on the physiological effects of stress on wildlife and that there have been “several inaccurate claims” made about Dr. Lattin’s research, what it entails and what it does not.

“For example, it has been falsely claimed that she performed skin biopsies (which cause small punctures in skin) ‘without pain relief,’” Ballard said. “In fact as is clear from her published paper on this study, Dr. Lattin did this procedure on anesthetized birds.” 

There have been other instances of claims made about her research as well, according to Ballard. One of those claims alleges that she violated rules when she was a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.

“It has also been inaccurately claimed that Dr. Lattin did not abide by existing USDA regulations while a postdoc at Yale, when, in fact, she followed all regulations,” Ballard said. “These are just two examples of many false claims. Dr. Lattin’s research complies with all existing laws and regulations and the Ornithological Council’s Guidelines for the Use of Wild Birds in Research.”

Ballard said that Lattin has received an endorsement of support of her research from the Ornithological Council and the Life Sciences Research Foundation. 

She received funding from numerous groups including the American Ornithological Society, the National Science Foundation, the Life Sciences Research Foundation and the Louisiana Board of Regents and received a research fellowship from the EPA when she was a graduate student, according to Ballard.

PETA along with local counsel Alysson Mills of Mills & Amond LLP filed the lawsuit against the LSU Board of Supervisors and Interim President Thomas Galligan, individually and in his capacity as president of LSU, as LSU’s designated records custodian under Louisiana law, according to Bruner.

In 2019, PETA condemned the University's use of animal testing and criticized Lattin's research. 

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