India’s University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently ordered an animal dissection ban in all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes with immediate effect thanks to incessant animal rights campaigns.
Live animals must be from now on replaced with digital alternatives such as ProDissector Frog, BioLab frog and DigiFrog, and teachers should receive training on how to use the simulators properly.
They have also suggested students could use museum specimens and microscopic preparations, models, charts, plastinated specimens.
“The point is for students to understand the concept. That can be done by taking them out on field trips instead of keeping them cloistered in a classroom,” said professor M A Akbarsha, director of Mahatma Gandhi-Doerenkamp Centre for alternative use of animals in Life Science Education, Bharatidasan University, Trichy.
M C Sathyanarayana, retired assistant professor of AVC college, Mayiladuthurai, also welcomed the news: “It is not easy to explore the anatomy of smaller species during live dissection. There are several good digital alternatives which provide scope to prod and examine all organs. Besides, there is also ample space to repeat the exercise.”
All universities and colleges have been ordered to submit a compliance report to the UGC in three months time.
The UGC had imposed a partial ban back in 2011. Now, on top of a full ban, they recommended ‘Animal Ethics’ classes should be included in certain courses and that the highlights of the Wildlife Protection Act and Prevention to Cruelty of Animal Act should be displayed in labs.
The ban, however, does not include higher-education students. They can continue to dissect animals, but must only procure them from breeding facilities approved by the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals and not from the wild.
The UGC notification stated: “With the increase in number of institutions, more than a million students undergo programmes requiring animal dissections. Most of these animals are caught from the wildlife. Their indiscriminate removal from their natural habitats disrupts the biodiversity and ecological balance. The case of frogs, the population of which has declined to alarming levels in the recent times, is often cited as an example.”
The UGC even asked for a ‘Dissection Monitoring Committee’ to ensure the animals are procured from legal sources, transported to the lab in an appropriate manner and are always anaesthetized before every dissection.