PETA Gets Set to Celebrate End of Animal Dissection in Indian Universities
Top University Regulatory Commission’s Recommendation of Non-Animal Methods for Zoology and Life Science Courses Would Save an estimated 19 Million Animals a Year
New Delhi – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India is preparing to celebrate a major victory for animals after learning from Dr BK Sharma that the University Grants Commission (UGC) – the apex regulatory body for higher education in India – has accepted the recommendation of a Core Expert Committee, of which Dr Sharma is a key member, to end animal dissection in university and college laboratories for zoology and life sciences courses. The recommendation has now been sent to India’s Department of Science and Technology for input. According to Dr Sharma, undergraduate and postgraduate zoology and life sciences students will soon no longer be required to dissect animals. Universities will also be required to adhere to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which prohibits the killing of amphibians and certain insects, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
The “Expert Committee to Consider Discontinuation of Dissection of Animals in Zoology/Life Science Education in Indian Universities and Colleges” was formed by the UGC and Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in January 2010 in response to an appeal to end animal dissection from MP Maneka Gandhi, who is also Chair of People for Animals. The UGC’s decision follows PETA’s extensive campaign, which included letters to the UGC, petitions from students and other caring individuals asking for a dissection ban and an appeal from actor Rahul Bose.
Said Bose, “Animal dissection is an outmoded approach that does little for students other than desensitise them about animal welfare issues, animals’ ability to feel pain, and their own compassionate feelings”.
Dr Sharma is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Zoology at the RL Saharia Government PG College in Kaladera (Jaipur), Rajasthan. Recipient of the 2009 Humane Education Award conferred by the International Network for Humane Education (InterNICHE), UK, he is a leading advocate of replacing animal dissection with modern, non-animal teaching methods.
“By eliminating animal dissection for zoology and life sciences students, India’s top university governing body will ensure that students use only the most modern education tools, meaning computer models over animals”, says PETA Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “Compassionate students nationwide will now learn without being forced to hurt and kill animals.”
Every year, frogs, mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits suffer and die for university laboratories. The UGC’s panel of experts agree with the findings of nearly every published comparative study in science-education literature: non-animal methods – including computer simulations, interactive CD-ROMs, films, charts and lifelike models – teach anatomy and complex biological processes as well as or better than inhumane and archaic animal laboratories. Dr Sharma says that these methods “are humane, cost effective and have proved much better than the hands-on use of animals” and that using these methods instead of purchasing animals every year would save universities an enormous amount of money. He says, “It is high time that the nexus operating between institutions of higher education and the catchers, killers and suppliers of dead formalin preserved and live animals comes to a halt.”
“It has been observed that very few people who have studied zoology turn their knowledge into any useful animal-saving profession”, Dr Sharma adds. “They usually become zoology teachers, which perpetuates a cycle of animal killing. Interestingly, students who dissect animals in zoology courses – unlike veterinary or medical students – never deal with these animals later in life. Therefore, the anatomical knowledge and dissection skills acquired by a zoology student have little or no practical utility in choosing a vocation or career.”
Because of its inherent cruelty to animals, dissection can even deter students from achieving in the sciences. Research has shown that a significant number of students at every educational level are uncomfortable with the use of animals in dissection and experimentation, and some even turn away from scientific careers rather than violate their principles. “The negative impact of this organised violence on young minds is already under scrutiny from psychologists and psychiatrists”, says Dr Sharma. “For this reason, I propose that the social science concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, be brought into life sciences education if we wish to keep our reputation as a nation with traditional values and a compassionate disposition. UGC’s recommendations have introduced the much-needed concept of humane education in the area of zoology and other life sciences.” Dr Sharma points out that these recommendations pertain to dissection in zoology and life sciences courses only and not research and testing since the committee was not meant to look into these aspects.
Dr Sharma encourages all educators, administrators and policymakers to replace dissection and animal experiments with latest teaching tools including alternative approaches and the study of animals in their natural habitats. Dr Sharma is currently preparing Humane Alternatives to Dissection and Animal Experimentation in Life Science education and Training: a Practical Manual for Universities and Colleges for Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK.
For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com. Dr Sharma and Manilal are available for interviews upon request.