UK
09/11/2013 16:02 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 10:53 GMT

RoboRoach App Blasted By Animal Welfare Experts

Animal rights experts have denounced a company for selling a device that allows people to remotely control cockroaches using a mobile phone app.

The Backyard Brains company has been forced to defend itself against cruelty accusations, claiming that the device is intended to get children to be interested in neuroscience.

"Have you ever wanted to walk down the hall of your school or department with your own remote controlled cockroach?" the company website asks, and offers people the chance to own the "world's first commercially available cyborg."

"It's an educational kit, it's not a toy," company co-founder Greg Gage insisted to Time, and added, "we want people to learn about the biological systems."

But in order to enjoy the app, users must immerse the cockroach in cold water to stun it, sandpaper it's head, then partially severe its antennae and use a needle to insert a wire into the insect's thorax.

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Then, a circuit must be superglued to its back allowing the course of its movement to be controlled using a mobile phone app.

Unsurprisingly, animal rights groups have been left appalled by the device.

"It's not okay to torture and mutilate cockroaches," said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals attorney, Jared Goodman.

"There is no way a child is going to learn anything about neurological diseases or be interested in studying it in the future based on mutilating a cockroach."

Queen's University philosophy Professor Michael Allen warned that the device will "encourage amateurs to operate invasively on living organisms."

He told the BBC the app would "encourage thinking of complex living organisms as mere machines or tools".