I am, apparently, in the wrong discipline.
The article I refer to is titled- I shit thee not- "In Safety Study, Sheep on Meth Are Shocked With Tasers." Seriously:
And if you don't think they're playing this story for laughs, take a closer look at that sheep photo. That sheep looks more like a sheep on meth than any sheep I have ever seen before. And I have seen a LOT of sheep!* So, to recap, this study apparently entails getting some sheep, hopping them up on meth, and then shooting giant bolts of electricity into them. It basically sounds like something Dr. Evil would do. Now, fortunately, there actually is a valid reason for performing such a study:
Growing abuse of methamphetamines has led to arrest-related deaths in situations where law enforcement officers used their Tasers on drug-intoxicated suspects. The latest study was designed to test whether electronic control devices (e.g. Tasers) can lead to dangerous cardiac responses in meth-intoxicated humans, with sheep standing in for people.
The less-lethal device of choice was the Taser X26, a standard law enforcement tool which can fire at suspects from a distance of 35 feet. Researchers shocked sixteen anesthetized sheep after dosing the animals with an IV drip of methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Some of the smaller sheep weighing less than 70.5 pounds suffered exacerbated heart symptoms related to meth use. But neither the smaller nor larger sheep showed signs of the ventricular fibrillation condition, a highly abnormal heart rhythm that can become fatal.
And this is, indeed, a very good reason for this silly-seeming research. The fact is, in our society using meth is not a capital crime,** so it would be nice if our non-lethal methods of restraining meth addicts were not themselves likely to kill.*** I like it when our tools don't accidentally kill people, so I'm really and truly of the opinion that- at least in theory- this research had a valid purpose and was useful. I make no warranty as to the actual quality of execution, but there was at least a point.
The thing is I just really, really wish I got grant proposals**** for things like this. I mean, hell, the literature review alone would be comedy gold:
"Our proposed research is the latest step in an ongoing research program into the interaction between chemical stimulants and coercive interventions in animal behavior. The most recent such study was performed by Bose et al. (2009) which involved tasing pigs who had been snorting cocaine. This study, itself, built upon earlier work, including Marks' (2007) research on spanking mice who have been dosed with lysergic acid diethylamide, and Johnson's (2003) paper on giving purple nurples to mountain gorillas who are chronic users of MDMA. Of course, all of this research owes a substantial spiritual debt to the regrettably now-discredited work of Brown et al. (1993, 1997, 2001) on yelling angrily at cows who have had twenty cups of coffee." [Contents of literature review entirely fictional]
Seriously, people, those would be some awesome, awesome grant proposals to read. The kind that would be fun to read at parties.
* Wait, that didn't come out right...
** Although it may carry a death sentence. Just say 'no' to meth!
*** I should note at this point that the goals, "Keep the adult human suspect safe," and "Quickly incapacitate the adult human suspect" are somewhat mutually contradictory. Or, more bluntly, anything that can rapidly incapacitate an adult human- drugged up or not- carries with it a non-trivial risk of injury. So, really, even if a weapon is hypothetically "non-lethal" you'd still be well advised to keep clear of it.
**** I should also note that the research on sheep appears to have been done entirely with private money from the taser corporation, so grants were never a factor.
As a final side note: I just want to observe that I am not suggesting that tasing, or drugging, animals is funny. I am more amused by the superficial- if not genuine- absurdity of the project. We can have a discussion about the ethics of using animals in research if you want, but right now I don't want. And I'm the one writing the blog so, NYAH!