On Monday of last week, the U.S. Army Research Lab announced that they will be working with Barron Associates to develop a training program to use rats to detect mines and IED (improvised explosive devices). The project has been named R.A.T.S. which stands for Rugged Automated Training System.
In an attempt to help protect soldiers in the field, they are hoping to be able to develop an inexpensive way to train the rats to sniff out hidden explosive devices. If successful, they hope to save the lives of more of our servicemen (and women) in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chief of the Life Sciences Division of the Army Research Office, Micheline Strand explained:
“If we can demonstrate that rats can be trained inexpensively to be reliable detectors, then this method would not only lower costs for the Army but would also create new opportunities for using animals to detect anything from mines to humans buried in earthquake rubble.”
“Training dogs is very expensive. If we can significantly reduce the cost of a trained animal, then we could provide more animals to protect soldiers.”
Rats have an exceptional sense of smell and since they are smaller, they would be able to get into places that dogs can’t. They are also easier to transport and require less food than dogs.
Animal rights groups have not started their protests yet, but once the word gets out that the Army is training rats to sniff out explosives and place their lives on the line, I’m sure PETA and others will come screaming animal cruelty. These animal rights activists have frequently protested and interfered with numerous uses of animals for testing, especially when it involves explosives. Some of them had a real problem with the use of dolphins in the Strait of Hormuz to locate mines before U.S. ships struck them.
So be prepared to hear them scream, holler and protest over how cruel it would be to train rats to locate explosives and possibly blow themselves up. But my response to them, when they do, would be to challenge them to visit one of the military hospitals that have dozens of servicemen and women who have lost limbs from IEDs. Then I would challenge them to visit the family, the wife and kids, of a soldier killed by an IED and tell them you oppose using rats to locate the devices.
Perhaps then they might realize that the life of a soldier is far more valuable than the life a rat. I hope and pray that R.A.T.S. is highly successful and saves the lives of our men and women in harm’s way.