Let me begin by saying that I’m not an animal rights activist or anything. As a Princeton student studying Molecular Biology, I have experimented on my share of live mice in the pursuit of scientific truth. That said, I’m beginning to think that my lab’s “Smasherator” experiments seem unnecessarily cruel.
A postdoc in the MOL department explained the experiment to me earlier this week when I visited his lab. “The experiment is designed to determine the optimal number of smashes it takes for the smasherator to smash a mouse real good. We’re still in the early stages of this experiment, but we’re hoping to get some statistically significant results by early next year.”
Now, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions or anything. I’m just an undergraduate, so I haven’t been exposed to a lot of practices in the scientific world. That said, I started to think the experimenters could afford to make their experiments more humane after the postdoc described his lab’s work in more detail.
“We usually fill up a big bucket with lab mice and then dump them into the smasherator. From there, they’re dropped one-by-one down the smash tube into the central smash chamber where they get smashed. When the mouse is nice and smashed, we count the smashes and then scrape the smashed-up mouse out of the smash chamber with the smashed-mouse scraping stick.”
I’ve been told that the scientists working at this lab are highly respected in their field and I know it’s not my place to question the goals of their experiment or their lab practices. That said, I became concerned after I saw a bit of the experiment in action. The smasherator had a big lever sticking out of it labeled “Smash Handle” and every few seconds a researcher would yank it down and yell “SMASH TIME!” as loud as she could.
Now, I’m not going to jump to any conclusions without knowing all the facts. I’m sure this lab’s research is important for the advancement of Molecular Biology. I just hope that in my senior thesis experiments using “The Rat Pulverizer” might be more humane.