Vegan activists are putting increasing pressure on the University Of Delaware to stop a series of test on rats they describe as 'painful, deadly and scientifically meaningless'.
According to animal rights charity PETA, the experiments on baby rats include confining rats to small plastic tubes smeared with cat food, then allowing cats to 'terrify them', and 'forced swim tests' - where the young animals are left in beakers of water to swim until they 'become exhausted or give up'.
The organization has erected a billboard near the university which displays the message: "Curiosity Abused the Rat. Stop University of Delaware Baby Rat Experiments Now!" The board, which will stay in place for a month, follows a formal complaint filed with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development urging the agency to withdraw funding for Roth’s experiments and an on-campus protest earlier this month.
PETA claims the tests are 'distressing and painful'
PETA Vice President, Alka Chandna, Ph.D., said: "Tania Roth spends her days tormenting baby rats in tests that are utterly irrelevant to human children. PETA is calling on the University of Delaware to shut down Roth���s laboratory of horrors."
The charity adds: "Since 2000, Roth has spent nearly $2 million in public funds tormenting rats in distressing and painful experiments that have failed to produce a single treatment for abused children. She has injected baby rats with opioids and forced alcohol down their throats, stuffed pregnant mothers into tiny restraint tubes and blasted them with strobe lights, repeatedly shocked infant rats’ feet, and dropped rats into tanks of water from which they can’t escape in bizarre efforts to replicate early childhood abuse and trauma in humans.
"She's taken newborn rats away from their mothers and given them to stressed females who, unequipped to care for the babies, have stepped on, dropped, dragged, and ignored them. Roth has also restrained rats in a Plexiglas enclosure smeared with cat food and placed it in a tiny metal cage with an adult cat so that the rats would become terrified that they'd be killed."
Roth outlines her research saying: "To better understand the relationship between caregiver maltreatment, epigenetic marking of the genome, and behavioral outcomes, [the] laboratory utilizes various molecular and behavior assays in developing and adult male and female rats. They focus on multiple brain regions that play a significant role in behavior and mental health, and that are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of early-life stress."
In response to criticism over the experiments, she has said she believes her animal tests have applications to humans. She issued a statement saying her work is 'well respected in the scientific community' denying that the tests are 'scientifically meaningless'.
She claims that she subjects animals to just 'mild and brief' stressors, adding: "We employ a rigorous experimental design where we have produced lots of useable and reliable data."
University of Delaware spokesperson Peter Bothum has previously refused to answer questions about Roth's experiment protocol, veterinary care records or animal death records. He did say: "The work in question has led to advancement in helping at-risk children recover from abuse and overcome post-traumatic stress disorder."