Animal welfare group PETA says psychology students at UH-Clear Lake are mistreating rats, and the group wants them to knock it off.
In an email to UH-Clear Lake President William Staples sent last week, a PETA investigator claims that rats used in a course called Learning Principles "are deprived of food for extended periods of time so that they will be driven by hunger to 'cooperate.'"
A student whistleblower approached PETA with information about the course, according to the email, which also claims:
"Each week for the duration of the course, frightened, hungry rats are taken to the classroom laboratory and placed in operant-conditioning chambers, where they are taught to recognize that they will receive food if they press a lever when a light is turned on."
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The whistleblower told PETA that her rat "sat motionless in the corner of her chamber for 15 minutes, paralyzed with fear," the email claims. The email also alleges that students are given the opportunity to adopt the rats after the course, but if they don't, many rats wind up being killed.
PETA is asking Staples to switch from live rats to computer programs, like those used in the same course at UH-Pearland, according to the email. The class also incorporates "clicker training with adoptable animals at a local animal shelter to teach students about animal behavior." (PETA was even helpful enough to recommend computer programs called Sniffy the Virtual Rat or CyberRat, which sound alternatively like Disney titles or terrible, terrible horror franchises.)
"Numerous comparative studies have found that students taught with these and other non-animal methods learn as well as or better than their peers who were forced to use animals," PETA's email claims.
We reached out to UH-Clear Lake for comment and will update if we hear back.