Year of the Rat: Here Are 4 Ways Rats Suffer in Experiments and How You Can Help Them

Posted by on January 23, 2020 | Permalink

From being cut open and intentionally infected with their own faecal matter to being forced to endure terrifying near-drowning experiments, millions of rats undergo horrific scientific procedures all over the world every year. As we enter the Chinese Year of the Rat, let’s take a moment to contemplate the immense suffering these highly social and emotionally intelligent individuals are put through.

1. Curiosity killed the rat: experimenters use rats as if they were disposable laboratory tools.

© Vdegroot CC BY-SA 3.0

Rats are used in a whole host of curiosity-driven experiments, from being force-fed alcohol in an attempt to study hangovers to senseless mind-control experiments in which their brains are wired with microelectrodes. As long as experimenters fill out the correct paperwork, there are few limits to what they can do to rats, even though rats have an interest in leading their own lives and don’t exist for humans to experiment on. This is a clear case of speciesism, which PETA is working to end.

2. Rats’ abdomens are cut open and their intestines deliberately left punctured.

White rats in animal testing laboratory

In an attempt to understand human sepsis, experimenters conduct a procedure on rats called caecal ligation and puncture – the animals are anaesthetised, their abdomens are cut open, and their intestines are tied up, punctured, and then squeezed to allow faecal matter and bacteria to leak out. The abdominal wound is sewn up, and when the rats regain consciousness, they’re left to endure symptoms such as excruciating pain, multiple organ failure, and hypothermia. Yet numerous scientific reviews demonstrate that the procedure is deeply flawed and irrelevant to finding cures for sepsis in humans. After receiving information from PETA affiliates, the US National Institutes of Health announced that it would prioritise human-relevant sepsis research instead of focusing on irrelevant, wasteful experiments on animals. PETA is seizing upon this momentum by urging British universities to drop sepsis experiments on animals in favour of superior, non-animal methods that are relevant to the condition in humans.

3. Rats are forced to endure a terrifying near-drowning experience.

In the forced swim test, rats are placed in inescapable containers filled with water. The panicked animals try to escape by attempting to climb up the sides of the beakers or even by diving underwater in search of an exit. They paddle furiously, desperately trying to keep their heads above water. Eventually, they start to float. Some pharmaceutical companies have used the forced swim test when developing treatments for depression, even though it has been shown that it doesn’t accurately predict whether a drug will work as a human antidepressant. PETA and our affiliates are contacting universities and companies to persuade them to stop authorising and funding these cruel procedures. So far, 10 big pharmaceutical companies have announced a ban on the test, and King’s College London has ended its use on all animals.

4. Rats are made to consume or inhale toxic chemicals.

Rats are poisoned all over the world in horrific toxicity tests. A whole battery of tests are conducted to assess whether an industrial chemical, pesticide, or other substance is toxic to humans. For example, in an attempt to estimate the dose of a chemical that will kill 50% of the rats, experimenters may administer toxic substances to them via tubes that have been forced down their throats and into their stomachs, or they may be squeezed into a tube and made to inhale a substance for hours on end. If they survive the procedure, they are killed and their organs are dissected. PETA scientists are working to prevent these horrifying experiments by urging regulatory agencies to accept superior, non-animal methods, working with companies and regulatory decision-makers on strategies to phase out experiments on animals, and providing laboratories with specialist equipment that can replace the use of animals.

How You Can Help Rats

Please urge pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to commit to a ban on the forced swim test:

Call on the UK government to commit to ending all experiments on rats and other animals:

Help stop the poisoning and killing of rats in tests for cosmetics ingredients:

Please donate to PETA to support our work to end experiments on rats and other animals: