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Tell Utah State University to Stop Tormenting Rats in Psychology Course

An undergraduate course in psychology at Utah State University (USU) requires students to force rats to push a lever for food in an attempt to teach students about “fundamental behavioral processes under laboratory conditions” in humans and other animals. We need your help to put an end to this pointless cruelty.

These experiments on rats take place each semester in USU’s course titled Advanced Analysis of Behavior (PSY 3400). PETA sent a letter to USU President Noelle E. Cockett in September 2022 and July 2023 to demand the replacement of the school’s use of animals in this course with superior, non-animal methods. USU refused and clarified that this course had previously used pigeons for these experiments but that the instructor had used “discretion” and switched to using rats instead in 2022.

The experiments last for nearly an hour and involve locking pigeons—or now, rats—inside barren and noisy metal boxes, where they’re deprived of water and blasted with random bursts of bright light while being trained to push a lever in order to receive food pellets. Although an “online rat simulator” had been used for this course in the past, USU made the backwards decision to torment animals instead.

There Are Better Methods

Studies show that up to 60% of psychology students oppose the use of animals in psychology education and that the majority of psychologists and psychology students believe that live-animal experimentation should not be required in undergraduate psychology courses.

The American Psychological Association states, “Consideration should be given to the possibility of using non-animal alternatives.” The organization also requires that “the development and use of complementary or alternative research or testing methodologies, such as computer models, tissue, or cell cultures, be encouraged where applicable and efficacious.”

Tormenting animals for this course is unnecessary. There are several engaging, effective, and cost-efficient non-animal simulators available to help students achieve the course objectives of PSY 3400 as well as non-invasive, nonlethal, and cage-free field research opportunities to observe animals in their natural habitats. Some examples that are in use at other universities include the following:

What You Can Do

Please send a polite letter to USU President Cockett and demand that the school replace all use of animals in PSY 3400 with effective, non-animal teaching methods; humane field research observing animals in their natural habitats; and/or ethical studies involving consenting humans.

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