European associations with the rat are generally negative. For instance, "Rats!" is used as a substitute for various vulgar interjections in the English language. These associations do not draw, per se, from any biological or behavioral trait of the rat, but possibly from the association of rats (and fleas) with the 14th-century medieval plague called the Black Death. Rats are seen as vicious, unclean, parasitic animals that steal food and spread disease. However, some people in European cultures keep rats as pets and conversely find them to be tame, clean, intelligent, and playful.
Rats are often used in scientific experiments; animal rights activists allege the treatment of rats in this context is cruel. The term "lab rat" is used, typically in a self-effacing manner, to describe a person whose job function requires them to spend a majority of their work time engaged in bench-level research (such as postgraduate students in the sciences).
Famous quotes containing the words european and/or cultures:
“The Indian is one of Natures gentlemenhe never says or does a rude or vulgar thing. The vicious, uneducated barbarians, who form the surplus of overpopulous European countries, are far behind the wild man in delicacy of feeling or natural courtesy.”
—Susanna Moodie (18031885)
“A two-week-old infant cries an average of one and a half hours every day. This increases to approximately three hours per day when the child is about six weeks old. By the time children are twelve weeks old, their daily crying has decreased dramatically and averages less than one hour. This same basic pattern of crying is present among children from a wide range of cultures throughout the world. It appears to be wired into the nervous system of our species.”
—Lawrence Kutner (20th century)