This page was last updated on: 26 September 2006.


This section hosts reviews and constructive comments (good or bad) on the film which have either been published elsewhere or received directly from viewers. If you would like to write a review (including if you have used the film for teaching) or if you have seen one elsewhere, please let us know.

Received Reviews:

by Dr. C. M. Sherwin (University of Bristol)
by Dr. A. Olsson (Portugal)
by Dr. L. Hart (UC Davis, USA)

by M. Meije (Utrecht University, Netherlands)
& Dr. V. Baumans (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)
by T. Clark, (USA)

by Dr. R. Cardinal (Cambridge University, UK)
N. Engineer (University of Texas, USA)
by F. Lidback (Stockholm University, Sweden).
by a Research Veterinarian (USA).
by Dr. E. Vidal (France).

Review by Dr. C. M. Sherwin, University of Bristol (December 2003)
Educational use: Veterinary Students
"The Laboratory Rat: A Natural History' is a filmed experiment on the release of laboratory rats into a wild-type environment. The subsequent behaviour of these rats is one of the most engaging films on animal behaviour I have ever had the good fortune to watch. The commentary is superb in that it is highly educational yet immensely entertaining; it is extremely informative with up-to-date expert coverage of important behavioural and evolutionary principles. The cinematography is also of the highest quality; on a par with what we might expect from documentaries with huge budgets.
The major message of the film relates to animal welfare. It shows that despite many generations of breeding rats in small, barren laboratory cages, these charming animals have retained the capacity to perform many behaviours that the laboratory environment prevents. This is a fundamental message to teach students of welfare. The film shows this in such an easily accessible, educational and entertaining way that I have no hesitation in recommending the film for any course on animal welfare. I use the video myself when teaching veterinary students about approaches to assessing welfare of intensively housed animals.
Congratulations to Manuel Berdoy and the rest of the team!"

Dr C.M. Sherwin
UFAW Research Fellow (Animal Behaviour and Welfare)
Centre for Behavioural Biology,
Department of Clinical Veterinary Science,
University of Bristol, Langford House,
Langford, BS40 5DU, U.K

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Review by Dr. A. Olsson, Portugal (January 2004)
Educational use: Postgraduate Students
"Ratlife is a fascinating film. It illustrates a very central but often overlooked fact: that our domestic animals are no less biological beings than their wild conspecifics. I use the video whenever I lecture on laboratory animal welfare for postgraduate students, and I’m waiting for the subtitled DVD-version to be able to use it also in the training of animal caretakers. I’m convinced that researchers will look differently upon their animals after having seen this film, and that this will benefit both the animals and the research."

Dr. Anna Olsson, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, Portugal

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Review by Dr. L. Hart, UC Davis, USA, (February 2004)
Educational use: As part of course on "Population Health and Reproduction": Mouse Behavior and Biology
" Right away the film draws in the viewer by being filmed at a rat scale, bringing them up close to a human scale so that we can empathize with their activities. Their array of behaviors, and the organized social behavior, engage us. As they adjust to being in an open area, suspense takes over to see what they will do next. The film portrays the array of behaviors that will inevitably interest viewers, with a high degree of informative material woven into the narration.

I asked some students to comment on the film--but first I must mention that they were sitting on the edge of their seats while watching it. From the students' perspectives, the film "made the rats seem very intelligent." "The close up views made the rats feel real." "Even without incident the rats started learning to look out for dangerous predators." "What natural predators are present?---Were the rats protected from predators? Very interesting video!" "The film should go more in depth with what the controls were, how the scientists interfered with the rats when placing the cameras, and so on."

Congratulations on such a fine film--I just would love to see a similar one on mice!!"

Lynette A. Hart
Professor, Department of Population Health and Reproduction
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California,
Davis, CA 95616

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Review by M. Meije (Untrecht University, Netherlands) & Dr. V. Baumans (Karolinska Institute, Sweden), (February 2004)
Educational use: Graduate and Postgraduate students, Researchers
"Filmed as a documentary that can easily compete with Discovery of National Geographic programmes, "The Laboratory rat: a Natural History" is an excellent achievement. We use the film in courses on Laboratory Animal Science in Utrecht and Stockholm to illustrate the topics animal behaviour and animal welfare, in order to provide students and researchers with a better insight in the natural behaviour of the animals they are working with. The final remark: 'We may have taken the rat out of the wild but, clearly, we have not taken the wild out of the rat' is a very clear statement which is often an eye-opener and we hope it will therefore cling to the mind of every scientist working with laboratory animals."

Margot K. Meijer MSc.
Dept. of Animals, Science & Society (division Laboratory Animal Science), Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

& Prof. Dr. Vera Baumans
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

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Review by T. Clark (USA) (March 2004)
Educational use: General
"Aside from my profession as a nurse I am also a volunteer for an organization here in the USA which provides rescue and shelter for ALL animals following disasters(ie floods, fires etc). There is so much to learn about all forms of animal life and their behaviour. The film was so informative concerning so many aspects of the rats behaviour in the wild,demonstrating such behaviour to their evolutionary beginnings. The exquisite camera work was impeccable. I felt as if I too was nesting in those bales of hay! Having learned so many new facts (new for me) about rats, it has given me an even greater appreciation for these animals, not that I needed any prodding. My only regret is that the film ended too soon, and I am left hoping for more films in the future. Thank you so much for a wonderful 27 minutes."


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Review by Dr. R. Cardinal (Cambridge University, UK) (March 2004)
Educational use: Research
"An excellent film - interesting in its own right as a high-quality wildlife documentary, and especially interesting to those who study the rat's behaviour in an artificial environment. I thoroughly recommend it"

Rudolf N. Cardinal MA PhD MB BChir
Lecturer in Neuroscience
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

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Review by N. Engineer (University of Texas, USA) (March 2004)
Educational use: Research
"The film "The Laboratory Rat: A Natural History" captivated the attention of graduates and undergraduate in our lab. When we saw the video, we were amazed to see how quickly the lab rats could adapt to their new environment. One of the projects in our lab focuses on how enrichment alters cortical function, and this video stimulated the interest of our undergraduate researchers to learn more about the project.

The knowledge gained from this video will benefit not only animal researchers but also neuroscientists, students, educators and anyone interested in animal behavior.

Congratulations to Manuel Berdoy and his team for the production of this excellent masterpiece!"

Navzer Engineer, Doctoral Student
Behavioral and Brain Sciences
University of Texas at Dallas
Richardson, TX 75080

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Review by F. Lidback (Stockholm University, Sweden) (February 2005)
Educational use: Research/General

This film has really inspired me both as an animal keeper and as a future ethologist. It is remarkable but not at all surprising to see what a variety of complex behaviors is hidden beneath the surface of our docile lab rat. Seeing the film has made me even more determined to work on improving the living conditions for all caged animals. I would love to see, or even be involved in, a similar project on mice in the future.

Felicia Lidback
Undergraduate student in biology at Stockholm university, Sweden
Animal keeper at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

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Review by a Veterinarian (name withheld) (USA) (February 2005)
Educational use: Scientists, Veterinarians, Animal Care staff.

This Dr. Berdoy's concept of placing 50 male and female laboratory rats into the "wild" for 6 months was truly a novel idea. In fact, all scientists working with rats would benefit from watching this short documentary. The filming and narration were well-done and as an experienced scientist working with rodents, I learned many new physiological parameters described in this movie. To name a few, the complicated ultra-sonic communication schemes and the vibrating ears during reproduction were interesting new concepts. I work in an industrial, research-oriented setting in the US and we have used this documentary (multiple times) in our educational seminar series for scientists, veterinarians and animal care staff. Members of the audience were very engaged by the film and many questions arose following the documentary. This made for a lively discussion and stimulated the group to think about our laboratory rats and the manner in which they are currently housed. At the very least, this study is fodder for thought but, more importantly, it demonstrates that rats, whether they are housed in a laboratory for hundreds of generations, or exist in a feral state, are ready to unleash their natural instinctual behavior at a moment's notice.

Research Veterinarian, USA

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Review by Dr. E. Vidal (France) (September 2006)
Educational use: general.

A very creative movie based on a luminous idea, that combines perfectly the exactness of scientific films with the emotion and artistic qualities of wildlife documentary. Rats are really photogenic creatures.

Eric Vidal
Mediterranean Institute for Ecology and Paleoecology
(CNRS, Aix-en-Provence) France

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