For using the power and prestige of his office to advocate for the protection of animals, Dr Shashi Tharoor, India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development, has been named Person of the Year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India. Tharoor encouraged the director of the National Council of Educational Research and Training to examine PETA’s Central Board of Secondary Education–approved Compassionate Citizen humane-education programme for incorporation in its textbooks, and he is also encouraging the use of non-animal methods for teaching students and training teachers.
Tharoor’s other efforts to help animals include writing a letter to Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad urging him to implement non-animal methods of teaching in medical courses. In 2012, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a directive instructing “all the institutes/establishments associated with teaching of medical, pharmacy and other graduate/postgraduate [c]ourses in life sciences to follow the [UGC] guidelines for discontinuation of dissection and animal experimentation in the universities/colleges and introduce use of alternatives to animal experimentation …”. Despite this, some universities and colleges still allow professors to use rabbits, rats, guinea pigs and other animals in cruel classroom experiments to train students. In addition, Tharoor urged the National Council for Teacher Education to ban the use of animals, such as for dissection, in training teachers. Tharoor said that the use of animal dissections in teaching at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels is completely avoidable, and the University Grants Commission has already taken up the matter with universities that are offering courses in the life sciences.
Compassionate Citizen offers teachers effective tools to help children understand that animals are feeling, sensitive beings. It has been used successfully in nearly 18,000 private and government schools, reaching 3.6 million children.
And comparative studies have repeatedly shown that non-animal teaching methods – including computer simulations, interactive CD-ROMs, films, charts and lifelike models – are more effective for teaching biology than crude animal-based methods are. Because these programmes can be used repeatedly, they also save time and money.