In ''The Electronic Sweatshop'' {Outlook, Jan. 3}, Curt Suplee effectively scares us with a future chock-full of supersurveillance, cramped modular work areas and sundry other torments reminiscent of the Dickensian work place. Let's hope his bleak predictions for human workers are as far from the truth as the rosy picture he paints of conditions endured by animals in laboratories.

Though federal guidelines state that ''mice, chickens and swine'' are to be protected from ''discomfort, distress and pain,'' it is a common misperception that the federal Animal Welfare Act includes these animals under its meager protections. The U.S. Department of Agriculture specifically exempts mice, rats, pigs, chickens and other ''farm animals''; reptiles and birds; and the tens of millions of animals unfortunate enough to spend their lives running treadmills into eternity -- electro-shocked, irradiated or force-fed oven cleaner.

Moreover, it was unfeeling of Suplee to write that under a Defense Logistic Agency project, an office worker might net a few square feet less space than a 200-pound animal in a laboratory cage. The worker is there voluntarily. The animal is forced to remain caged in a 5-by-8-foot or smaller metal box for his entire life, able only to sit, stand and turn around -- if the experimenter does not have it in a restraint jacket, chaired, yoked or tubed.

The conditions under which feeling nonhuman beings live in our nation's laboratories are not a subject for fun, even when their suffering is at a minimum.

Ingrid E. Newkirk

The writer is national director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.