Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.
“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”
In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.
In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.
One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.
I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.
“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”
“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”
While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.
Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.
2 thoughts on “Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)”
I’m so glad that someone wrote about this. The practice is very troubling. Maybe this will help things to change.
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Things have changed a little from the time Kotzwinkle wrote this, but only in some countries. Plus the definition of ethical research seems fairly flexible. But yeah. At the very least no make-up testing on animals. Plus better living conditions. And so on and so forth.