The deadline was 30th July 2015 and it is over. University Grants Commission (UGC) wanted the Vice-chancellors of all the Universities in India to send in their ‘action taken report’ on its directions to scrap animal dissections and the guidelines for experimentation on animals are followed diligently.
As the number of institutions for higher learning increased, the requirement of animals including frogs for dissection at laboratories also increased. The animal welfare laws were often neglected and the hapless animals were subjected to brutal and inhuman torturing leading to slow and painful death. Animal welfare organizations were pleading to stop the use of animals in education, particularly, dissections. Dissection of animals for gaining knowledge and laboratory experiments are to be dispensed with in a phased manner. ‘Appropriate technology should be acquired and human resources should be developed for the same’. On the basis of the representations, the UGC appointed an expert committee to submit recommendations on the use of animals in higher education. The recommendations included:
- All Institutions of Higher Education to strictly adhere to the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
- All Institutions of Higher Education to constitute “Dissection Monitoring Committees” (DMC) to look into the use of animals, and UGC to provide guidelines for the same.
- For both UG and PG programs, there shall be reduction in the number of animals for dissection and experimentation as well as in the number of species with all ethical considerations. Preference shall be given to laboratory bred animal models.
- For UG: ‘Only one species’ to be adopted for ‘demonstration only’ by the faculty and ‘students should not do any dissection’. For PG: Students shall have the option to perform dissection of ‘selected species’ as per the curriculum or to have a project related to biodiversity/ biosystematics, etc.
- Human Resource Development through training programs towards adopting alternative modalities for animal dissection.
- Software development for alternative modalities for animal dissection, experimentation and dissemination.
Earlier in July 2014, the UGC has directed the universities ( UGC Notification Notification No. F-14-62014 (CPP – II)) that “no animals from any species shall be dissected, either by teachers or students for any purpose. Applicable to all undergraduate and post-graduate programmes (except for research) run by departments of life sciences and allied disciplines of all universities, ‘Deemed to be Universities’ and institutions of national importance empowered to award degrees.”
This decision of the UGC followed its own instructions on partial ban on dissection issued in 2011 and in line with the directive of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2012. The instructions came into force immediately on issuance. Regarding the use of animals for research purposes, the UGC directed that ‘ the animals used in research should be procured from laboratory bred sources and removal of animals from their natural habitats should be avoided’.
It also said that all institutions should constitute ‘Dissections Monitoring Committees‘ to ensure strict compliance of the instructions. All the institutions were to register themselves online with the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiment on Animals (CPCSEA), a statutory body of the ministry of environment which was established for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
About 1544 educational institutions and research units have registered with the CPCSEA . The directives given by the UGC with the objective of stopping cruelty to animals in higher education institutions is a well informed decision in the wake of repeated complaints received lately on account of non-compliance. This latest action will pave the way for a different educational system in India by resorting to non-animal methods of teaching as a better alternative.
Animal Welfare activist groups welcomed the new directions of the UGC. They also demand speedy implementation of the directions and urge that all the educational institutions follow suit. The UGC ban on dissection of animals in college laboratories hasn’t gone down well with the scientific community. Many are of the view that life sciences courses and research will not be complete without the dissections of animals wherever they are warranted.
Many veterinary science students in India are reportedly of the view that “the move will ultimately hamper their ability to treat animals. The students are of the view that they are not using animals illegally or for personal benefit but for the cause of veterinary science which prevents animal deaths“. (Times of India, 8 August 2014). Animal use resulting in harm or death has historically played an integral role in veterinary education, in disciplines such as anatomy, surgery, physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, and most importantly surgery.
Some studies on use of animals for dissection differ in findings. According to them, dissections of animals have negative psychological effects on students. The current trends show that the educators and students prefer cruelty-free science classes. Laboratory experiments with domesticated animals are also on the decline.
There is a rapid increase in the availability of humane alternatives, as ethically-sourced cadavers, preserved specimens, computer simulations, videos, models, 3D dissection software programmes and surgical simulators curated, tested and integrated by leading software testing companies. These alternatives can save substantial numbers of animal lives. The non-animal-alternatives are gaining popularity as the institutions find that the animals no longer required for practical sessions. The use of animals in graduate education has dramatically declined over the past few decades, Many medical and veterinary institutions in US have resorted to new alternative tools and methods and alternative. Tufts University Veterinary School was the first of its kind to stop using animals for classes and resorting to alternative methods. Now 25 veterinary schools in the US out of 28, use humane alternatives for their courses.
Educators and students in veterinary science in India should lead the new movement and become role models to other institutions in life sciences: as they are the people who pledged to protect the animal health and welfare, to prevent and relieve of animal suffering and to conserve animal resources.
(Featured Image Courtesy: anatomiayplastinaction.wikispaces.com)