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Still cutting edge

india Updated: Apr 21, 2010 22:14 IST

In a progressive move, the University Grants Commission (UGC) is considering banning animal dissections from the zoology and life sciences curricula. As a veterinarian and someone who cares about both animals and science, I urge the UGC to make the progressive and scientifically sound decision to end the cutting up of animals in classrooms. Banning dissection would not only save the lives of countless animals every year, but it will also ensure that every student benefits from the very latest and most effective teaching methods.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that even those students who have not thought about the moral implications of harming animals as part of their coursework may not be learning to their fullest potential when dissection is part of the course. Dozens of studies show that non-animal teaching methods — like virtual dissection software — have an equal or even superior ability to provide students with an understanding of anatomy and complex biological processes.

A recently published peer-reviewed report examined 17 studies and found that the results associated with the non-animal method of instruction were, in each case, as good as — and in some cases better than — the results associated with dissection. Non-animal teaching methods are also associated with increased learning efficiency, higher examination scores, student confidence and satisfaction.

The use of non-animal learning methods also improves the preparedness of students pursuing careers in medicine. Nearly 95 per cent of America’s medical schools, including institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford, have discontinued the use of live animals in teaching. No US medical school expects or requires students to have dissected animals.

Students forced to dissect animals when they ethically oppose to it may lose interest in pursuing scientific careers, according to a number of published research articles. Imagine the contributions from thoughtful, compassionate and promising young scientists we have lost because these young people would not consider the thought of violating their principles?

A one-time purchase of a computer programme can be used to teach an unlimited number of students for years on end. Ending dissection is the right choice for universities, students, animals and the future of scientific research.

Anuradha Srivastava is Vivisection Campaign Coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) India

The views expressed by the author are personal