Who should live, a little girl or a rat? That's what a billboard campaign promoting the use of animals in research for human medical treatments asks.
The advertisements are a part of the Research Save campaign, paid for by the Washington, D.C., non-profit organization, Foundation for Biomedical Research.
"Without research with animals 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, Deuchenne muscular dystrophy and malaria," FBR president Frankie Tull said.
Animal activist group, People for The Ethical treatment of Animals, PETA disagrees.
"It still doesn't make any difference to any feeling human being what the species is," Kathy Gullerimo of PETA told ABC affilate KOMO-TV in Seattle. "They all experience pain. They all can suffer."
The billboards feature a picture of a little girl and a rat with the caption, "Who would you rather see live?" But an FBR spokeswoman said they aren't meant to shock.
Instead, FBR Director of Media & Marketing Communications Liz Hodge said, the aim is "to get people to think where the benefits are coming from that we expect when we're sick."
"There's a huge middle ground of people aren't really sure and haven't really thought about it," she said. "And those are the people we are trying to target."
Some people in the Seattle area who have seen the billboards said they add to the debate.
"Of course if it's going to spark controversy -- that's brilliant for them," Seattle resident Andrew Swan told KOMO-TV. "For many people who see the billboards, the argument isn't black and white."
"I'm not 100 percent against animal research. I think that it needs to be limited; I think all other options need to be considered." DeAnna Puls, a Seattle resident told KOMO-TV.
However, according to the FBR, animal research is important to animals too.
"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," Hodge said.
She said the campaign has generated positive feedback.
"A lot of people here don't hear the argument as a whole. They hear just one side," Hodge said. "We're presenting the other side of the argument and people think it's refreshing."
The billboards are featured in five cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago and Portland, Ore. They will remain up until the beginning of May. The group plans to put up another billboard in Madison, Wis., at the end of April.