We were disturbed by the news of Backyard Brains’ plans to have live cockroaches shipped to students and provide instructions to surgically turn the roaches into “robots” controllable via an app. It’s also beyond disturbing that people funded this horror movie-esque project on Kickstarter (by the way, Backyard Brains has also received funding from the National Institute of Health).
We aren’t the only ones wondering how RoboRoach could possibly seem like a good idea. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has now filed a legal complaint asking the Michigan attorney general and state authorities to investigate. According to PETA’s press release, the complaint claims that the company may be in violation of Michigan’s Public Health Code as well as the Insect, Pest, and Plant Disease Act. PETA reports that Backyard Brains does not have the required permit in place to offer live cockroaches for sale or ship them.
The animal rights organization also states that the surgical procedures, which involve removal of body parts and surgical implanting of electrodes with only ice water for pain prevention, may violate the law by practicing veterinary medicine without a license. That’s a felony.
“Cockroaches are living beings with the ability to feel pain—not inanimate objects for kids or anyone else to stab and cut apart for ‘fun.’ The RoboRoach kit teaches kids the dangerous lesson that it’s OK to hurt and torment animals—something that PETA believes is not only never OK but also clearly illegal in this case,” says PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr.
PETA has also equated the RoboRoach kits to bullying, and warned of the dangers of teaching kids to experiment on defenseless animals. “Not only is RoboRoach harmul to roaches, it’s potentially harmful to the cyborgs’ handlers. It could desensitize them to the feelings of those who are weaker than they are. One might just as well call it a ‘bully starter kit,’” writes PETA.
The organization also points out studies have found that cockroaches are conscious animals who experience pain, learn, and who have complex memory and spatial awareness.