What do European robins, garden warblers, and zebra finches have in common?

They're all beautiful birds who love the freedom of flight and their natural surroundings. They all have glorious voices and instincts to match. And many of these beautiful birds have been decapitated in cruel experiments sponsored by Volkswagen.

IDA was sickened to learn that the Volkswagen Foundation is paying experimenters at German and U.S. universities to capture and use these beautiful songbirds in worthless experiments that terrify the birds before they are ruthlessly killed for curiosity's sake. Although the use of any animal for experimentation is objectionable, the thought of birds-who are universal symbols of joy and freedom-captured, caged, terrorized, and vivisected, is particularly heinous. Birds are indeed so fragile that they often die of fright from the capture or transportation process.

These atrocious acts are taking place at the University of Oldenburg in Germany and Duke University in North Carolina. Songbirds captured from the wild and captive canaries and finches are exposed to different light cycles or are fitted with eye caps glued tightly to their heads to block out all light. Researchers then cut the birds' heads off to slice their retinas out of their eyes, and dissect and study their brains for clues to the secret of migration. The principal experimenters are Henrik Mouritsen of Oldenburg and Erich D. Jarvis of Duke University. Mouritsen's webpage features his nature photography - apparently he is unaffected by the irony of building his career on capturing and killing beautiful birds.

Another experimenter listed on the published papers is Gesa Feenders, who did the heinous VW bird experiments for her Ph.D. dissertation. Feenders' dissertation Website includes a video of one of the bird victims-a garden warbler-filmed in darkness via infrared cameras. As described in Mouritsen's, Feenders', and Jarvis' published papers, a reflective strip has been placed on the bird's head so head movement can be observed. The bird seen in this video has been placed in a zero magnetic field which confounds his natural instinct to migrate. After the bird exhibits "bouts of migratory restlessness" for a certain length of time, the experimenters go into the cage, capture the bird, and decapitate him in order to cut out his retinas and dissect his brain. The video shows the helpless, confused, and frightened bird attempting to orient himself and follow his migratory instincts.

IDA is working cooperatively with Doctors Against Animal Experiments in Munich, Germany to stop these abhorrent bird experiments, the most recent of which was published in 2007.

IDA has written to Volkswagen of America's new CEO, Stefen Jacoby, asking him to assure us, for a start, that no more birds will be killed using the company's money.

The Volkswagen Foundation has funded many other experiments on animals, and we want Mr. Jacoby to end them all. We've asked him to start with the birds, and from there we will work with the company to make sure that the Volkswagen Foundation, which does many good things, stops funding all deadly projects. The company may insist that it has nothing to do with the Volkswagen Foundation's policies and functions but the foundation would not have come into being in 1961 without the automaker, and revenues for the foundation continue to accrue from returns on the VW shares held by the State of Lower Saxony.

Letters Wanted:

Help drive Volkswagen to make the right decision. Please Take Action and send a polite message to Stefan Jacoby, VW President and CEO asking him to use his influence to earmark funds for research that does not entail the use of animals. Then print your letters out and mail or fax to:

Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO
Volkswagen of America
3800 Hamlin Rd.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326-2829
Tel.: (248) 754-5000
Fax: (248) 754-4930

Send very polite emails to Mr. Jacoby's assistant at .

for VW leaflets so you can educate other shoppers.

"This is an excellent example of the type of basic research in neurophysiology where animals are killed solely to satisfy the curiosity of the investigators and their colleagues. It has no conceivable relevance to the treatment of human disease, nor to the development of industrial applications which do not already exist, including such things as GPS systems. The authors of both articles do not even attempt to discuss the potential importance of this line of work, and this is telling. The reason, in my view, is that there is none except for the advancement of their own careers. The use of animals for a project of this type has no ethical justification."

Robert Hoffman, MD, neurologist