Animal rights campaigners have praised lesbian tennis icon Martina Navratilova after she criticised experiments taking place on sheep perceived to be gay.

Navratilova spoke out against Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) this week after it emerged that the institutions are conducting hormone-altering experiments on “gay sheep” to manipulate their “sexual preferences.”

The tennis star has been backed by the PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) after she wrote to the presidents of both universities demanding they stop the experiments and spend the money on a worthy cause.

She wrote, “How can it be that, in the year 2006, a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments? … I respectfully ask that you pull the plug on this appalling and misguided research. Surely you can find a way to redirect the millions of public tax dollars that are being wasted on these experiments to a more fruitful venture-perhaps by funding a gay and lesbian community centre to foster dialogue and acceptance for people of all sexual preferences?”

PETA’s Karen Chisholm said she was “honoured” that Navratilova was standing up for animal rights.

OHSU experimenter Charles Roselli is reportedly drugging sheep to prevent the actions of hormones in their fetal brains and cutting open the brains of rams he calls “male-oriented” (homosexual) in an attempt to find the hormonal mechanisms behind homosexual tendencies.

Roselli’s cohort, Frederick Stormshak of OSU, is reported to have surgically installed an device in rams’ bodies in an effort to alter “gay sheep’s” sexual preferences and make them heterosexual.

According to the grant applications, the experimenters plan to extrapolate the test results to humans-with the insidious implication that homosexuality in people can be “cured.”

Ms Chisholm told PinkNews.co.uk: “We are honoured that Martina Navratilova has decided to add her voice to the growing international criticism of these gay sheep experiments, which can only be described as a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity, and a colossal waste of precious research funds.”

She described the implications of the research as “dangerous to the LGBT community.”