An attempt to convert “gay” sheep to become straight has sparked a fierce debate in the U.S. on the ethics of the experiment. Concern has been raised that the technique, which alters the hormonal chemistry of the sheep’s brains, may be used to “cure” humans of their homosexuality.
Critics fear that it could lead to a treatment which may one day allow pregnant women to choose to diminish the probability of their child being born gay through a simple hormone supplement.
The research has been undertaken at Oregon State University and the Oregon Health and Science University and aims to aid farmers by changing the behaviour of rams which normally prefer to mount other rams so that they will instead mate with ewes.
Around one in ten rams appears to show the ‘gay’ behaviour, something which farmers say affects their profitability.
The scientists claim that the results have had some success: after injecting hormones into the rams’ brains, some have become attracted to ewes.
Lesbian tennis champion Martina Navratilova has joined the fray by calling for the project to be shut down. “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?”, she was quoted as saying.
Researchers, however, say that they have the right to explore the science behind what determines sexuality, adding that they do not aim to “cure” homosexuality in humans.