A small group of demonstrators led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gathered outside the University of Delaware’s McKinly Laboratory on Delaware Avenue on Monday to protest a professor’s research techniques.
On the first day of the university’s second summer session, protestors held signs that read “UD: Stop abusing baby rats,” “Electroshocking baby rats won’t help abused kids” and “Animal cruelty – at home: get arrested, in the lab: get funded” as a stand against research conducted by Tania Roth, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences.
“For nearly 20 years, Tania Roth has been tormenting and killing mother rats and their infants in pointless, cruel and inhumane experiments,” said Katerina Davidoich, a spokesperson for PETA. “We’re calling on the University of Delaware to put a stop to these experiments.”
Roth’s research focuses on the long-term influence of maltreatment in early-life caregiving experiences. She uses developing and adult male and female rats to study the brain regions that are significant in behavioral and mental health.
PETA alleges that Roth has used $2 million of public funds in experiments that “have no benefit to human health,” according to Davidoich. PETA has filed a complaint with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to ask it to cut funding for her research.
“Rats feel pain and fear and loneliness just like the dogs and cats we keep as companions,” Davidoich said. “Unfortunately, rats are exempted from the Animal Welfare Act; they don’t even have minimal protections in laboratories, so it’s really important that we get pressure from the school to stop these cruel experiments.”
In a prepared statement, UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said the institution is committed to “providing the highest standard of humane treatment to animals used in research, and we follow all guidelines from the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.”
“Dr. Tania Roth is an accomplished and respected researcher in the field of behavioral epigenetics. Her important research helps inform appropriate treatments for children who have been abused or traumatized,” Tippett continued. “The University of Delaware supports her vital research program as part of our fundamental mission to make a positive impact on society through education and scholarship.”
Charlotte Chaze, a graduate researcher in biochemical engineering at the university, was among the protesters gathered outside McKinly Laboratory.
“We already know abuse causes mental health issues,” she said. “We need to fund mental health research, not this.”
Roth did not respond to a request for comment.
In an editorial published Monday in the News Journal, Roth wrote that her work “seeks to understand how negative experiences early in life have lifelong impacts on the brain and behavior…. Without the animals I work with, I would not be able to uncover the basis of how our experiences affect our brains. We already are using information we have fathered from our work with rodents to inform intervention efforts with neglected and at-risk children in the US and abroad.”
According to UD, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare in the National Institutes of Health investigated the claims against Roth and found that her research complies with the regulations and guidelines.