Animal Aid

Mad Science Awards expose shocking cruelty to rats: Animal Aid names 2006 ‘winners’

Posted 14 November 2006

On November 22nd, Animal Aid will be presenting special diplomas to researchers across the UK involved in ‘grotesque and pointless’ research on animals. The theme for the 2006 Mad Science Awards is science’s forgotten victims - rats.

Researchers seek to justify their use by presenting them to the public as mere rodents - life forms undeserving of any special consideration. But to see them as nothing more than laboratory tools betrays a gross lack of sophistication and sensitivity.

In fact, scientists have begun to discover what rat fanciers have long known - that rats are capable of showing great affection for humans and for one another, and that they form highly functional societies where, for example, the strong will help the weak to obtain food. Ultrasonic recordings of rats at play have revealed the emitting of chirps - inaudible to the human ear - that are considered to be the equivalent of human laughter. Equally illuminating is the discovery that rats mourn.

Despite the fact that rats have four legs and a tail, live for only 2-3 years, have no gall bladder and cannot vomit, researchers still use them to try to solve human health problems. Recipients of Animal Aid’s Mad Science Awards for research on rats include:

  • University of Nottingham where rats’ screams of pain were recorded

    In a collaborative behaviour study with the University of Ireland, male rats were injected with formalin - a toxic chemical that causes considerable and lasting pain. They were then put inside a perspex chamber that administered repeated electric shocks to their feet. A microphone was placed above the chamber to record the rats’ cries of pain, communicated in ultrasound.

  • The London Royal Free Hospital where deliberately-damaged rats died trying to pass urine

    Eight rats were anaesthetised and had their abdomens cut open. A jeweller’s ‘jump’ ring was applied around their urinary passage and the abdomens were closed. Two rats died three days after surgery from the effects of an over-full bladder. All the remaining animals were killed after three weeks. Researchers noted that the damage seen in the rats’ bladders was quite different from that seen in rabbits and in humans.

  • Cardiff University where deliberate brain damage to rats affected different strains differently

    Forty rats were anaesthetised and the skin on the heads peeled back to expose their skulls. Half the animals were injected through the skull itself and into various regions of the brain with NMDA - a chemical that destroys brain cells. After recovering from this invasive procedure, the rats were repeatedly forced to swim in a water maze with each rat having as little as 15 seconds between trials. The outcome? Albino rats swam better but the pigmented rats had better vision in the dark.

    Animal Aid’s Scientific Consultant, Andre Menache, says:

    ‘These sad examples demonstrate that science without compassion is brutality. The advancement of knowledge for its own sake does not justify inflicting pain and suffering on sentient creatures. These animal experiments are not about real science or helping human beings through meaningful, rational research. They constitute a misguided effort, for which these animals pay the ultimate price. Nor does the law provide any meaningful protection for laboratory animals.

    ‘I willingly challenge any of these scientists to defend their animal experiments in a public debate.’

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