Controversial billboards are springing up in cities across the U.S.: they feature a picture of a little girl and a rat, and ask the question "Who would you rather see live?"
The billboards are part of a campaign called Research Saves. It promotes the use of animal research and are sponsored by the Foundation for Biomedical Research, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group.
FBR says the billboards aren't intended to be inflammatory: Director of Media & Marketing Communications Liz Hodge says the group wants people to "think where the benefits are coming from that we expect when we're sick...There's a huge middle ground of people who aren't really sure and haven't really thought about it. And those are the people we are trying to target."
Frankie Tull, the president of the Foundation, explained the billboards this way: "Without research with animal models, especially rodents, we will not have cures for the many currently incurable diseases afflicting children today including leukemia, diabetes, paralysis, autism, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and malaria."
Despite their billboard depicting a rat who's sure to meet his end if viewers choose to save the little girl, the Foundation says animal research can even save animals. "Procedures were developed with lab animals at first and then brought to people and perfected, now it can be brought back to dogs that have similar injuries," Liz Hodge said.
PETA thinks the billboards promote the wrong message about animal research, PETA's Kathy Guillermo told ABC affilate KOMO-TV in Seattle. "They all experience pain. They all can suffer."
Right now, the billboards are on display in Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Portland, Ore. Another one will go up in Madison, Wis., at the end of April, and the remaining five billboards will stay up until May.