There’s little good to be said about someone who can come up with the idea of using a living thing as a toy: And, yes, that’s exactly what Mattel has done with Bugracer.
Bugracer is a toy car that is ‘steered’ by motion-sensors reacting to a cricket trying to escape from it. Yes, you put a cricket into a little pod and as it runs around trying to escape that counts as steering the car and provides endless hours of sadistic entertainment.
Mattel try to make this OK by spruiking cricket-care as part of the package while also pushing STEM as an excuse. Here’s how they responded to a recent complaint from a zoologist:
Insect care and observation is an important aspect of learning about nature and science. Bug Racer is a fun way for kids to learn the responsibility of caring for and nurturing insects. It was carefully designed to keep both crickets & kids safe while utilizing a re-imagined habitat that mindfully blends science & technology. As with all Mattel toys, Bug Racer complies with or exceeds all industry safety standards. Extra safety accommodations have been included to ensure the welfare of crickets when used with the toy. Customized cricket care features include a well-ventilated, removable habitat, integrated feeding station, and a non-invasive cricket transfer tool. We hope this helps put your mind at ease.
Strangely, our correspondent zoologist’s mind was not put at ease by the ‘re-imagined habitat’ also known as a toy car.
Ethically, educationally and in every other way this is a lousy idea. How about teaching kids some respect for life? How about teaching them something about crickets? How about even teaching them to program a robotic car?
It’s not even clever or fun – the poor cricket’s efforts to escape are in effect just a random number-generator and not even a very good one. I can only imagine that the novelty value of this will wear off in minutes when the car randomly goes nowhere.
Bottom-line here: A living thing can be a pet, can be a companion, can be a friend – it should never be seen as a toy. The only thing worse than Mattel coming up with this idea, is anyone giving this monstrosity to a child.