25 January 2007

Gay sheep cause ruckus

Charles Roselli is interested in gay sheep. Not, however, in the way those among us with overactive imaginations might think. Dr. Roselli, of the Oregon Health and Science University, is looking for physiological factors to explain why about 8 per cent of rams exclusively choose sex with other rams rather than with ewes. The good doctor says his goal is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep.

Quite aside from a lot of bad jokes, Dr. Roselli's work has produced a torrent of protest, led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and supplemented by gay tennis star Martina Navratilova. An error-riddled article in London's Sunday Times, which claimed the doctor was "curing" the rams and that critics feared the research would lead to attempts to breed homosexuality out of humans, didn't help. The university and the doctor, whose work is supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in leading scientific journals, are working hard, with some success, to set the record straight.

The fact that most piqued my attention was that 8 per cent of rams are gay. Can anybody still believe it's a lifestyle choice?

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