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Animal Cruelty at the Science Fair?

Science Projects You Can Do
Formerly, 101 Science Projects
Stone
1972

Submitter: Apparently acceptable children’s science projects in 1972 involved pulling on the tendons of severed chickens feet and intentionally giving guinea pigs scurvy.  [I’ve also] attached pictures of Mr. Stone’s worm electrocution experiment. Secondly, there is section called Learning Experiments for Rodents that suggests making maze with food at the end to see how fast the rats learn the maze. At the end of this experiment in includes the following paragraph: “After a few days, repeat the same experiment to find whether there has been retention of learning. The learning rates of two or more animals could also be compared. The effect of age, drugs such as caffeine in coffee, dietary deficiency, and mild punishment are other possibilities.” I advise you to check your libraries for this book and remove it immediately if it is still on shelf.

Holly: Agreed.  1972 was a very different time…

0 Responses to Animal Cruelty at the Science Fair?

  • It’s actually kind of amusing to contemplate the horror on people’s faces when the little scientist demonstrates his tendon pulling experiment. There are a lot of little boys who would get a kick out of grossing people out like that–and since the chicken foot comes from “a butcher” I don’t see it as animal cruelty. Of course finding a butcher who kills live chickens right there in the store…no, that isn’t going to happen in your local Piggly Wiggly. For a student who lives on a farm where chickens are raised, chicken feet might be easy to come by. Anyway, I think we are entirely too squeamish about this sort of thing. Scientists to this day still use animals in experiments most of us would regard as cruel and be unable to witness, let alone participate in. “Electrocuting” earthworms seems mild by comparison to what happens to monkeys and rabbits in some laboratories.

  • I’d be a lot more squeamish about kids torturing small rodents in the name of science than I am about chicken feet or even electrocuting worms.

    And I could probably find chicken feet a lot easier than some kid in the suburbs, even though I live in a large city. We still have butchers, not just meat departments in big box supermarkets.

  • I used to do that chicken tendon demo at the science museum where I worked. You can actually get chicken feet in a lot of supermarkets – anyplace that serves a Chinese population, for sure. I strongly disapprove of giving guinea pigs scurvy, though! Do science fairs nowadays have Institutional Review Boards?

  • I was in elementary school in the ’60’s and lived with my aunt and uncle. My uncle was a butcher and owned his own market. I took a chicken foot to school in 4th grade to demonstrate how it worked. Wish I had known about the formalin because it was pretty stinky by the end of the day!

  • True, idfriendly – but do we seriously want to encourage youngsters to behave this way just because research labs are regularly cruel to animals? I, for one, say NO. Sending the message to kids that electrocuting animals – even worms – and intentionally plaguing small mammals with a disease like scurvy is acceptable behavior is, to my mind, unconscionable.

    Yes, some people do things to animals that are cruel. That doesn’t make it right.

  • Actually, scientists these days have to go through ethics boards who determine whether the experiments they are planning to do will be humane and they are quite stringent, so no; they do not necessarily still use animals “in experiments most of us would regard as cruel”.

  • If memory serves, by the time I was doing school science fairs (the early 2000’s for reference) there was a very strict rule imposed against experimenting on live vertibrates (besides surveys, quizzes and the like of consenting humans.) I’m not sure how widespread the rule is (I imagine it’s nationwide as the winners of local science fairs move on to regional and national levels.) I suppose the scurvy guinea pig experiment is out of the question.

  • This new, awful blog layout is a joke, isn’t it?

  • Isn’t torturing animals the first sign of a psychopath?
    I imagine anyone doing the scurvey experiment and bringing it to school fair would not only get a bad mark, but would have to see a psychologist for a very long time.

  • @Jenn, actually “humane” is a relative term. It’s relative to how the USDA wants to define it, and that isn’t always in favor of the animals. Just take a look at the PETA website sometime. There are plenty of stories about labs that inject animals with horrible diseases, induce strokes or other health complications, and otherwise make life pretty miserable for animals in the name of science. And these are the labs that follow federal law.

  • @ID – I wouldn’t listen to PETA, they’re known for killing more animals then any group, including kidnapping peoples’ pets and murdering them. So whatever they say about labs I’d take with a heavy grain of salt.

    We did the chicken foot thing when I was a youngster in the 80s. The school provided them though.

  • It’s hard to imagine any science fair participant being interested in doing any of this stuff today. Cruelty debate aside it’s just icky and not interesting.

  • That “good basic diet” isn’t just crap for not having vitamin C. Also, lettuce gives piggies runny poo. Try kale, collard, mustard or dandelion greens instead.

  • The chicken foot would be OK in a fair today (or in class), but even the worms would probably be disallowed.

  • My son and I saw a cow eye dissection at a science museum recently. Gross, but very interesting. Really showwed how the eye worked, and that that fluid inside the eye was actually jelly-like. Definitely not cruelty, cause the rest of the animal was eaten.

  • ID: I’m sorry, did you just say you take PETA seriously? PETA, the laughingstock of the activist world, that like Jami says, kills more animals than any shelter ever could, does stupid stunts like invading dog shows and pretty much refuse to help the common pet owner, like the owner of the cat who got dumped in the trash can?

    You, and your argument, are invalid. No one can take you any more seriously now than PETA. Have a nice day.

  • I don’t care how easy it is to get ahold of a chicken’s foot, that kid is going to give everyone at the science fair salmonella. Just say no to creepyass disease puppets.

  • Just want to remind everyone that the chickens are dead already before the foot is cut off. The rest of the meat ends up in the nice styrofoam package at the grocery store. There are no poor little chickens with one foot hobbling around on crutches. If you are really that worried about salmonella, wear gloves. Has anybody thought that people donate their bodies to science for medical students to dissect? What’s the difference?

  • I have a fear of dead birds… So I cried in fear of that chicken foot experiment

  • Linda, LMAO@ poor chickens!

  • What has happened to education in this country? Experimentation and discovery are vital in developing future scientist. Observing how tendons control the chicken foot is evil? Running rats through a maze is animal cruelty?

    The earthworm experiment does not electrocute the worm. Earthworms are sensitive to electrical charges – they actually produce electricity as they move to attract water in the soil to lubricate the skin.

    Of the projects listed, only the induced scurvy could be considered crossing an ethical line. Hands-on projects are the best way to understand the fundamentals of science. (and the chicken foot should be be stored in alcohol for preservation & sanitation)

  • I actually had this book when I was a kid and did some of the experiments.
    I think what is missing here is context.
    I didn’t have a guinea pig but I did have gerbils.
    I read this and took a look at my gerbils and, that’s right, scurvy.
    Hmmm, maybe I can take better care of my pets if I use an experimental approach rather than an ignorance is best approach.
    As far as the chicken foot experiment goes…
    I lived on a farm where we did our own butchering.
    My dad said if you are going to eat it you should know what the animal had to pay.
    We carefully examined the parts, especially the cast off parts, like chicken feet.
    I actually felt bad that I was wasting such a marvelous creation (seemed like it could continue to be useful now that the chicken wasn’t using it).
    As far as the worm experiment goes…
    The normal fate of our worm collection was to serve as bait for fishing.
    Now there is a humane fate for a worm.
    (you do realize it features impaling the worm repeatedly with a barbed hook from which the worm has no escape?)
    My worm experiment involved sandpaper.

  • Well. Not all science fair projects involving animals are cruel. A student could breed guppies to show genetics.