Kill-Traps Kill Animals: Thanks for the New “Research”, USDA

The Rise for Animals Team, June 5, 2024

Animal Partisan has uncovered and shared with Rise for Animals gruesome evidence of the federal government using our tax dollars to kill animals with devices that were designed and already proven to — you guessed it! — kill animals. 

The uncovered research was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Wildlife Research Center, which self-proclaims to “find[] solutions to challenging wildlife damage management problems”. Unfortunately, this means – as it does across the animal research industry broadly – continuing to invest in the same unethical, torturous, and provenly ineffective practices that have failed for hundreds of years to translate into “solutions”.  

In the same way that animal researchers continue torturing and killing animals in the name (but not function) of helping humans, the USDA continues torturing and killing mice in the name (but not function) of managing human-mouse “conflicts”.

Mousetraps represent “far and away the most invented machine in all of American history”, and records indicate that (i) the U.S. has issued more than 1,000 patents for mousetraps (and more than 4,500 patents for animal traps, generally), and (ii) the U.S. grants approximately 40 “new mousetrap patents” every year (“[with] ten times that many mousetrap patent applications [being] turned away”). 

Humans have designed and employed traps that – among other barbarities – glue mice down (and have them die slowly as they try to free themselves by chewing off their own limbs), electrocute them, stab them, drown them, starve them, poison them, decapitate them, and break their necks and/or backs – the latter being the most favored by humans, as evidenced by the unrivaled popularity of the “snap trap” (aka “machine for breaking the necks of a quarter-billion mice per year”). 

Torture and killing, however, is not only unethical; it is also indisputably not a “solution”. 

Despite the human fixation on killing mice, mice continue to live among us as rightful cohabitants of this planet. And, indeed, as with other wildlife, the human destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats has pushed mice to “move from wild spaces to towns and cities, where food is either intentionally left out or tossed away”.

As such – and though they may be effective at ending the lives of sentient beings deemed inconvenient and disposable by humans – kill traps are “completely ineffective at tackling the root problem” that leads to humans and mice living in close proximity to one another in the first place. 

Hundreds of years of killing – amidst continued species crossover – have proven this.

Yet, still, our government continues paying researchers to have traps designed to kill rodents . . . well, kill rodents. 

In the study brought to light by Animal Partisan, the USDA killed “house mice” using a Goodnature A24 trap that had already been tested and successfully used to kill small animals, including rats and stoats. 

The USDA’s pretext for this study incorporated one of the animal industrial complex’s most favorite buzzwords, as the agency alleged that the study was aimed at “humaneness testing” — at observing that the trap killed mice (animals smaller than rats and stoats) in a way that did not violate the completely arbitrary and patently hollow “humaneness” guidelines set by the researchers themselves

Tellingly, the USDA declined to define “humaneness” in this context (probably, because there is no humane way to kill someone who wants to live…) and, instead, cursorily decided to focus on the “period from administration of the lethal action to death” – or, the time it took for the “test” mice to die after being hurt by the trap. 

Also tellingly, and as the researchers themselves conceded, this very assessment had already been made: UK researchers had previously established that Goodnature A24 traps met similar “criteria for humaneness” when tested with mice of “approximately the same size” as those used by the USDA. 

Never ones to let the absence of any semblance of earnest justification stop them from making a buck, though, the government-funded animal researchers collected dozens of innocent, other-than-human animals and set about orchestrating their deaths.

The USDA’s first tests involved enclosing single mice within “small plastic pens” with an A24 trap, and its second tests involved enclosing mice within larger areas representative of “more realistic conditions”. Researchers actively “encourage[d] mice to visit” the traps by offering “few options for exploration in the pens” and by withholding food (other than that available in the traps). 

All but a single mouse were outlasted and eventually entered the A24s (or the snap traps also set in the second tests). For this, they suffered “fatal (or near fatal injuries)” – to include “pulmonary hemorrhage, puncture to the right of the sternum, and skull fracture” – and death by “spine or skull fracture (crush)” or “internal hemorrhage”. 

(In the niche but scarily diverse world of mouse killing devices, then, it seems the A24 would be part of the “‘miscellaneous’” category of traps because – rather than falling into the more typical “snap, choker, and jaw” categories – it “work[s] by unusual means”: it “‘crush[es]”….)

Researchers concluded that the A24 trap is “humane” because most mice suffered only for two minutes or less between having their spines or skulls crushed by the trap and ceasing to move (which the researchers interpreted as signaling death).

At the least, mice endured 20 seconds of sheer emotional and physical agony. 

At worst, mice suffered longer than 120 seconds – not only were three mice “euthanized” after being found alive more than two minutes after “triggering the A24”, but the cessation of bodily movement does not equate to the absence of consciousness or to death (meaning that mice the USDA deemed “dead” due to an absence of movement may well have been still and actively suffering).

Totally humane, though, per the USDA.

Mice were likely trying to find a way out of the experiment when they triggered the completely foreign A24 device. 

Videos of this study show mice exploring all areas of their small plastic pens, including the walls and scents in the air, plainly seeking a way out – in fact, researchers specified that the pens had to be partly covered by plastic “to prevent mice from jumping from the top of the trap out of the pen”. The mice are also seen repeatedly engaging and disengaging with the trap, once again searching out their options in this artificial, foreign, and new environment.

The behaviors observed strongly evidence recent scientific findings that mice are strategic thinkers who test hypotheses (by “alternating their responses in a controlled setting”) and change their behaviors to “learn more about their surroundings”: 

During human-imposed trials in the lab, mice may be continually exploring and re-testing the rules of their environment and performing their own small experiments . . . ‘We put these animals in these bizarre situations. They don’t know when the environment may change. They don’t know when we may change the rules on them. There’s value in having this sort of continuous exploration.’ . . . animals have to find out for themselves what the rules of a particular situation are.  

Unfortunately, in the USDA’s set-ups, the mice had no way to explore and test their environments without sacrificing their lives. 

Yet, still, they displayed an innate sense that danger loomed – afterall, the USDA researchers admitted “surprise[]” at how “long” it took for mice “to trigger traps (averaging 4.6 hours across all trials), especially when there were few options for exploration in the pens”.

Mice are sentient individuals, who — like you and we — are doing their best to survive in an often unwelcoming and unkind world.

We know that mice are “remarkably adaptive and emotional beings”, who play with, empathize with, and learn from one another; who pass the “mirror test” (“placing them in a rarified category alongside humans, primates, dolphins and the smartest birds”); and, who, by admission of the USDA researchers themselves, are individuals.  

Yet, simultaneously, humans torture and kill mice both inside and outside of laboratories – with impunity. Summarizes one commentator: 

 . . . if you don’t hunt, a mouse may be the smartest, most sympathetic creature you’ll ever set out to kill.

Inside laboratories, mice account for the vast majority of the more than 110 million sentient beings victimized each year in the U.S. alone; and, as a result of animal research industry lobbying, they are not even considered “animals” for purposes of the Animal Welfare Act. Researchers can do anything to mice for any reason (or not reason at all) . . . and they do.

Outside of laboratories, humans in western cultures have been conditioned to fear rodents, with such fear “develop[ing] into a general antipathy to the[ir] presence . . . in and around our premises”. Humans have also been indoctrinated with a speciesist worldview, which suggests that humans are more important than other animals and have a right to do with them as they wish.

Even setting outside ethics and philosophy, it turns out that the “justifications” humans use for torturing and killing mice – whether inside or outside labs – are “misleading”, at best.  

Inside laboratories, mice cannot and do not serve as predictive “models” for humans; and outside laboratories, mice very rarely endanger human health by “spreading disease” (despite the USDA citing “the carry and spread [of] zoonotic diseases” as a reason why “elimination” of house mice is a “priority”). Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, a government agency, just like the USDA), the transmission of disease from mice-to-humans is ridiculously rare: annually, only about thirty humans contract hantavirus and only seven contract the bubonic plague – both diseases humans have been taught to associate strongly with rodents and which result in significant human fear. 

(Further, with regard to the plague, the CDC has – clearly albeit disturbingly – failed to keep up with public health findings that disprove this narrative: modern research has actually led to a consensus that humans – not rodents – were the main carriers of this disease.) 

Perhaps most importantly of all, “mice probably are living or have lived in your house, even if you haven’t seen them. Mice are everywhere . . . mice are there now, and you haven’t become sick.”  

So, in truth, it is really not about risk but, rather, about tolerance

Thanks in part to the aggressive marketing of mousetraps, our tolerance for mice-related threats is low. Our tolerance for the risks involved in eating spinach (salmonella), or hiking (ticks), is considerably higher.

This calls to mind a prescient suggestion, which was put forth by the author of a book on mousetrap history and with which we wholeheartedly agree: “perhaps it is the user and not the mouse trap that should now be improved.” 

We do not need to build (or test) a “better” or different or new lethal mousetrap.

Rather, we need to build a better and different and new moral circle, one that includes all sentient beings — including those like house mice, “whose presence [may] not please us” and whose resourcefulness and resilience may irk us (leading us to, for example, regard and treat them as “pests”).

We need to invest in justice, peace, and coexistence, instead of violence, oppression, and exploitation.

We need to stop believing or accepting that humans may or must cause intentional suffering and/or death to others.

And, we need to ensure that those claiming to do our bidding — like the USDA — do the same.

Share on Facebook

Share on X (Twitter)