PETA virtual experience at Penn equates medical research on animals to human testing. Scientists aren’t sure about the analogy.

Animal rights activists staged a sit-in on the University of Pennsylvania campus Friday to encourage people to consider the experiences of laboratory animals.

A virtual reality headset and headphones immersed participants in a a first-person perspective that focuses on a story line The X-Files baby-eyed aliens tried and tested a couple who got caught after a flat tire left them stranded. in the desert. During the experiment, participants sat in the back seat of a truck while watching a nearby bar.

People for Animal Welfare hosted the nearly six-minute virtual experience as part of a tour of colleges, including other Ivy League schools, in recent weeks. The next stop was the University of Virginia. The show is not affiliated with the university.

Marnie Chambless, a PETA spokeswoman who ran the ride at 36th and Walnut Streets with “Abduction” emblazoned across the front, said participants found the experience an enlightening metaphor for the experience of animals. in exile.

“People are just showing us that the comparison is fair,” he said.

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PETA is encouraging researchers to switch from animals to computer modeling or human volunteers for their experiments. But in the real world, experts say, animal testing is a big deal.

University of Pennsylvania animal research is “finding cures and cures for some of the most challenging diseases of our time, both in humans and animals,” said Ron Ozio, a university spokesman.

The university’s laboratories are monitored by the US Department of Agriculture, which inspects the facilities to ensure that air, food, and animal health care meet federal standards.

Penn’s animal research programs and facilities are also accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.

Computer modeling has not been compared to live animal testing, according to an explanation on the Stanford University School of Medicine website. The complexity of the algal and circulatory systems means that testing on animals is the best way to understand the effectiveness or harm of possible treatments.

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“Until that discovery is made, animals must play an important role in helping researchers test new drugs and therapies for efficacy and safety, and identify potential adverse effects, or adverse, such as infertility, infertility, liver disease, poisoning, or cancer,” the Stanford website says.

Animal testing is part of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that will be used in tests for new medicines and drugs.

PETA has reached out for 500 people with his traveling show in mid-October. People participate for different reasons, Chambless said. During his recent visit to the Massachusetts State Penitentiary, he said, some visitors were more interested in dealing with alien abduction than wrestling with deep meaning.

During Penn’s landing on Friday, about a dozen people strapped on a virtual reality headset at noon to take a ride on the alien spaceship. The experience placed users in a cage with two men, naked and injured, while aliens waved a bright light in the user’s face.

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“That was really scary,” said Erin Bailey, 35, a Penn employee who is passionate about animal rights, after her experience.

“I’m vegan so it’s not new to me,” she said.

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Joyce Ben, 19, came to Swarthmore University to have the experience. “I’ve never been into VR,” he said. “I was like really scared.”

The president of the vegan club at that school, he also came with serious concerns about animal testing.

“I don’t think it’s worth it,” he said.

Lissette Patterson, another Penn employee, said she used to be a vegetarian and now eats it occasionally. He was drawn to the show out of curiosity, he said.

“I want to know what they’re feeling,” he says of the animals in the labs, “what they’re going through.”

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