PETA’s post titled “VIDEO: PETA Exposes USU for Tormenting Rats in Psych Course” claims that USU is locking rats inside noisy metal boxes, depriving them of water, and blasting them with random bursts of bright light during the undergraduate psychology course PSY 3400.
According to PETA, the experiments last nearly an hour and attempt to train animals to push a lever to receive food pellets. PETA posted alleged video footage of the experiments here.
“USU deserves a failing grade for tormenting vulnerable animals in a useless effort to understand human psychology,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is urging the university to replace these cruel experiments with modern simulation programs that leave animals in peace.”
USU, however, disagrees with these claims. According to USU representative, Amanda DeRito, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, USU is committed to the humane treatment of animals and carefully monitors the designs and implementation of all studies that involve animals.
In their post, PETA claimed USU should use an “online rat simulator” or other “animal-free educational tools.”
However, USU said their review of currently available non-animal behavior models did not identify any viable alternatives.
“The computer simulations mentioned by PETA are seriously out of date and do not accurately model the response of rats to the conditions under study,” DeRito stated. “Additionally, the class studies are all new to science, so a simulation cannot model what is not yet known. Computer simulations would thus lead to an incorrect understanding and learning by students.”
USU continued by explaining that all studies in PSY 3400 only involve positive reinforcements and predictable cues. “These studies are similar in ways to enrichment activities performed in zoos across the nation,” DeRito said.
According to USU, the humane use and care of animals is a critical component of the course, the animals have frequent access to veterinary care, and all studies are approved by the internal review committee, and their facilities are subject to strict inspections.
Additionally, USU claims the rats associated in the studies are involved for a few semesters before becoming available for adoption. Rats live two to four years on average. According to PETA, rats are highly social animals who become emotionally attached to each other and form bonds with their human guardians.