Tell Utah State University to Stop Tormenting Rats in Psychology Course

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An undergraduate course in psychology at Utah State University (USU) requires students to place rats in stressful conditions 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 letters to the school in September 2022, July 2023, and August 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 metal boxes, where they’re 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 took a giant step backward, deciding to torment animals instead. Recent university records indicate that this course has been approved through 2026. As many as 68 rats may have already been exploited.

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.

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 polite e-mails to the USU staff below demanding 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.

Elizabeth Cantwell
Utah State University
[email protected]

Nancy Hanks
Assistant to the President
Utah State University
[email protected]

Feel free to use these talking points in your e-mails (but remember that using your own words is always more effective):

  • Using rats in distressing classroom experiments tells us nothing about human psychology. Non-animal methods such as computer simulations, observing animals in their natural habitats, or ethical studies involving consenting humans should replace all use of animals in USU’s classroom experiments for course PSY 3400.
  • Studies have shown that most psychology students and professionals oppose the use of animals in education and experimentation. It’s essential for educational institutions like USU to align with these values.
  • It’s crucial to recognize that rats are highly social, empathetic animals. They form bonds with each other and express emotional responses. Just like humans, they deserve compassion and respect.

Then use the form below to send a similar message to other USU staff.

Utah State U
Wagner Ph.D.
Utah State U

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