Outraged animal advocates are calling for an end to a Lower East Side exhibition in which visitors can walk over mice living in plexiglass compartments under the floor. Titled "Prehysteria," the Joseph Grazi installation debuted at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on Orchard Street on October 19th, and has since drawn protests and public backlash from those who see the use of mice as animal cruelty.

On Tuesday, PETA condemned the exhibit, writing a letter to both the artist and the gallery owner urging them to remove the animals and transfer them to safe adoptive homes. "Forcing small animals into distressing situations is not creative but shows only an abiding ignorance of who animals are, their nature, and what makes them tick,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. "With animatronic mice and other substitutes for real animals on the market, there's no need to make real mice suffer."

Earlier this week, Natasha Millikan, a self-proclaimed mouse expert and administrator of the Rats And Mice Are Awesome Facebook group, told the Times that mice have "an instinct to be terrified from anything up above them, any shadow." The day after the Times article came out, Millikan posted in her Facebook group, "WHO IS IN THE AREA AND WANTS TO HELP IN A PHYSICAL IN PERSON WAY??"

Prehysteria" by Joseph Grazi is live!!!! 12-7pm. Castle Fitzjohns gallery 98 Orchard street,NY

A post shared by Castle Fitzjohns Gallery (@castlefitzjohnsgallery) on

Gallery owner Vincent Harrison says he was caught off guard by the outrage, but notes that he's glad to be raising the issue of exploitation in the art world. "There's a moral argument here—they don't like animals being used without their consent, and I think its good to have that discussion among an audience that wouldn't normally do it," he told Gothamist, adding that he's had several productive conversations with activists who came in to protest, and has since added little shelters for the mice to hide in.

Still, Harrison thinks the accusations of cruelty in this case are a bit misguided. "With regard to the mice themselves, most people reacting to the habitat haven't seen it," he said. "They have more space in there than a mouse normally does—they're running around, and have food and water." And if not for the exhibit, the so-called "feeder mice" would've been eaten by now, according to Harrison. Instead, he plans to put the mice up for adoption once the show ends on November 20th (those not taken will be fed to the artist's python).

The gallery's decision to display live mice comes just weeks after the Guggenheim pulled its own exhibit involving live animals, along with a video that many interpreted as glorifying dogfighting, in the wake of widespread criticism. "That opposition is growing," the PETA warned on Tuesday, referencing the Guggenheim controversy. "It’s no longer acceptable to exploit animals in the name of art."

Asked whether he felt that public opinion had shifted regarding the treatment of live animals in the art world, the gallery owner was ambivalent.

"For people to say it's wrong to use animals for art, well I mean, who decided that?" Harrison wondered. "I'm not saying its right or wrong, but who draws the line? I do agree that [the Guggenheim] portraying dogs fighting in a public arena is wrong, because dogfighting is cruel. But mice living under the floor? That's just where mice live."