Just as I was sitting down to write this morning and thinking about all of the good things that are happening for nonhuman animals (animals) I received an email about an essay called "The Do-it-Yourself Cyborg Cockroach: Educational or Cruel?" I thought it was a joke, but unfortunately it isn't.
Cyborg cockroaches teach many wrong lessons: Animals are not products
The essay, by Steve Williams, describes a product—and animals are not products—called "RoboRoach", the brainless child of Backyard Brains. This project requires people—they hope to attract youngsters to the field of neuroscience—to do surgery on cockroaches and the kit comes with a backpack unit, electrodes, and a cockroach, and beginning next month will be sold for $99.99.
Cyborg cockroaches who can be controlled by smartphones teach many wrong lessons including that they encourage bad citizen science and utterly inhumane education. They also suggest that quality and useful neuroscience "research" is something you can do from your home or wherever you and your smartphone may be. These are thoroughly misguided messages.
There is no reason to assume cockroaches cannot feel pain (see also), however, even if we learn they cannot or it seems highly likely they can't, this does not mean it is okay to use them in invasive research or in silly and useless projects like RoboRoach.
There is nothing at all good or right about cyborg roaches. Please write to the producers and ask them to terminate this ridiculous and inhumane project right now. You can contact them here, and it is very easy to do.
The teaser image can be seen here.