Resistance is Futile: PETA Attempts to Halt the Sale of Remote-Controlled Cyborg Cockroaches

The robot bugs are part of an educational kit, but PETA argues they're torture.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Courtesy Backyard Brains

People have done many terrible things to cockroaches in the name of fear: impaled them with a shoe, squashed them in a tissue, and water tortured them down the drain. Now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is claiming that a government-funded neuroscience startup is doing terrible things to roaches in the name of education.

Backyard Brains in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is backed by the National Institute of Mental Health, sells a $99 kit that lets anyone with time, patience, and a spare cockroach create a RoboRoach, a living cockroach whose movements are remotely controlled by its human caretaker. “It’s an educational kit, it’s not a toy,” says Backyard Brains co-founder Greg Gage, who adds, “we want people to learn about the biological systems.”

Using the same concept as deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes implanted in people’s brains help control symptoms of Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders, the kit attaches electrodes to the antennas of a live cockroach, then shocks it with three-volt jolts to get the bug to move in whichever direction the user designates. (The kit comes with a toy remote control for now, but upcoming versions will work with most smartphones.)

Building your very own cyborg bug involves dipping a live cockroach in ice water to anesthetize it, cutting off most of its antennas, inserting electrodes into the remaining stumps, then supergluing a little headset atop the insect’s head. A small receiver snaps into the headset and rests on the bug’s back. Feeling queasy yet?

To stop any more Franken-bug kits from being created – about 300 have been sold so far, according to the company — PETA filed a complaint with Michigan’s attorney general and state regulators charging that Backyard Brains is practicing veterinary medicine without a license. That’s a felony, by the way.

“It’s not okay to torture and mutilate cockroaches,” says PETA attorney, Jared Goodman. “There is no way a child is going to learn anything about neurological diseases or be interested in studying it in the future based on mutilating a cockroach.”

‘We’re not breaking any laws,” says Backyard Brains’ co-founder Greg Gage, who adds that the ice-water anesthetization ensures a painless operation and that the roaches lead normal lives once the electrodes’ effect wears off after a week or so. “These are roaches that people would easily kill in their apartments.”

True, but most people wouldn’t stick electrodes in them. We’d just flush them down the toilet and forget ‘em.

19 comments
TashaEls
TashaEls

Absolutely disgusting!!! With current developments in technology, testing and experimentation on animals is no longer required, nor warranted. Last time I checked there was no shortage of neuro-scientists, and none of them needed to be 'inspired' by the torture of living beings. First do no harm.

DillonHansen-Warren
DillonHansen-Warren

The comments below are the result of people growing up in a post-Disney society. Before adding to the flock of blithering idiots, take a step back and ponder on the fact that insects do not breathe, they do not think, they do not make works of art, they do not raise families, they do not cry, they do not do much of anything. I understand that those shiny moving pictures shown to you from a young age can cause you to anthromorphicize every tiny little thing, but please, when it comes to serious matters such as this, think first before embarrassing yourself.

LisaClark-kahn
LisaClark-kahn

This is an attempt to make torturing animals and using others beings minds and bodies for human use something thats ok with our next generation. Peta sees that as does other calm thoughtful commentors of course petas upset you dont see the moral downhill.We evolved humans must fight for going in the right direction in our compassion and values to other sentient beings,peta helps us do that along with lots of other animals rights and welfare groups.I thank you for that.

JohnCropp
JohnCropp

Can Backyard Brains scale up their device to fit PETA members? I could use a couple of them to do some work around the yard. Granted they are animate, but hardly cognizant, or capable of genuine feeling. If nothing else a remote control device would reduce their illogical blathering, cruelty to animals, conspicuous contempt for human values, and non social redeeming nudity. Let us avoid any possible torture of useful creatures, and turn our creative skills on the truly worthless. 

R4G3
R4G3

Humanity creating serial killers with bug experimentation- not sure whether to take this as a joke or seriously. Aren't there biology classes for public schools that use live animals such as frogs for dissection? This is certainly no worse that. Even if there is some small percentage of kids that became deranged, it would be attributable to their genetic disposition to being psychotic/ sociopathic passed on from the parents. PETA seems to be just picking fights for the headlines that follow in the path of something ridiculous rather than making any real effort at stopping/preventing cruelty to animals.

VadimTakser
VadimTakser

In case the aliens still haven’t made up their minds - humans are evil.

Michael_R
Michael_R

Think of what this is going to teach the kids; that it is o.k. to cut body parts off a living breathing being (yes, even an insect), cut off some of its most sensitive body parts, insert wires into the remaining body stubs, and torture the thing until it dies of exhaustion (or pain). It will only bring the worst in kids and turn them into uncaring, unfeeling bullies. Wait until they start on larger animals- rodents you buy at the per store, neighbor's cat or dog, or their own baby brothers or sisters! This is not different from inserting a couple of wires up the nostrils of an animal and then shock them with electricity. No, this is definitely not o.k. If a kid wants to play with a robot, there are plenty of kits available at the local electronics store.

CamHoltoe
CamHoltoe

is  PETA is against it?  I'll buy them to give to every kid I know for Christmas.. After all.. it's not like I'd be giving money for say, known arsonist and fire-bomber, Rodney Coronado's defense fund.. (which PETA has done)..

HMOORE123
HMOORE123

I'm not real fond of roaches, but this is just cruel and teaches children to bully anyone they are bigger than or can control. Get kids coloring books, bikes, video games, or other toys that don't involve animal abuse. 

midmodmabel
midmodmabel

I hope PETA can get this sick product pulled from the market. We should not be encouraging children to cut open and experiment on living beings. Isn’t that how serial killers get their start?

PatSGogol
PatSGogol

Peta does not think twice when it comes to dog shows and poisons dog, or set them free in traffic. Its a roach, ok just stomp on it. Peta just picks ridiculous things to fight, they dont pick difficult topics because they find it to hard to win.

BrittanyPeet
BrittanyPeet

This product is disgusting and extremely disturbing. Given the well-known link between children torturing animals and hurting humans later in life, I hope lawmakers will do the right thing and halt distribution of this right away. Torture devices are not toys!

LucyP
LucyP

I agree with PETA… encouraging kids to mutilate and maim any living creature is a bad idea. It desensitizes kids to cruelty. That’s the last thing we need in this age of school shootings and relentless bullying.

DillonHansen-Warren
DillonHansen-Warren

Yes, PETA is a huge help to animals, I especially like that they kill 89% (close enough to 9 out of 10) of adoptable animals donated to their shelters.
Oh, lets not forget about their ideals such as putting cats and dogs (obligate carnivores) onto vegan diets, something which would almost certainly be detrimental to their health.
Lets not forget about their campaigns on destroying fur by covering it in paint, meaning even more animals must be sacrificed to make up for the destroyed fur.
How about their claims that keeping pets is a cruel practice, their solution being to neuter current domestic into extinction.
If I were an animal I would dread being put anywhere near these fanatics, they are a truly abhorrent organization created for one purpose; making money from fools with big hearts and small minds.

shieldred
shieldred

"evolved humans must fight for going in the right direction in our compassion and values to other sentient beings"

Did you just insinuate that Roaches are sentient? We should probably stop genociding  them then.  That seems like the bigger issue. 

Also  the "This wills turns our childrens to serial killers!!! !" makes me strongly suspect their are few "evolved" humans on this site. Evolution is about surviving not vapid compassion.

PamGuss
PamGuss

@JohnCropp JohnCropp, that's disgusting. You're not doing yourself any favors by being so exaggerate and hateful towards Peta. If anything, you look like a blathering idiot.

shieldred
shieldred

@LucyP  

Your so right!

 We should train our children as we always have and encourage thoughtless constant genocide . Because the life of every bug is not only precious and irreplaceable but has a large role in the development of our children!

Also school shootings are totally because children are taking too much interest in science and developing hobbies, skills and interests.