Decks have been cleared for the University Grants Commission (UGC) to completely ban dissections in undergraduate and postgraduate study of Zoology, and to introduce computer-based pedagogical practices instead.
The historic ban on dissections would pave way for saving up to 19 million animal species every year in the country and preventing wastage of enormous money spent by the educational institutions for purchase of animals.
A recommendation for the ban was arrived at unanimously at the final of the five sitting earlier this week by the UGC-appointed ‘Core Expert Committee to Consider Discontinuation of Dissection of Animals in Zoology/ Life Science in Indian Universities and Colleges' after five sittings since the start of this year. “The PG students will now have the option to study ‘Biodiversity' or ‘Live Zoology', according to B.K. Sharma, Member of the Core Expert Committee.
The UGC named the expert committee at the start of this year following vigorous representations made by the Member of Parliament Menaka Gandhi, Chairperson, People for Animals (PfA) that promotes and encourages animal welfare issues to ensure high standards for ethics and effectiveness in life science education and biomedical research, and subsequently by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), USA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
According to Dr. Sharma, who is also Associate Professor & Head, Department of Zoology RL Saharia Government PG College, Jaipur, the fact was that dissection of animals to teach morphology, anatomy, evolution and other bits in the teaching of Zoology/ Life Sciences was no longer required since, with the technological advancements, there were now modern pedagogical methods: models, multimedia computer based simulators, interactive CDRoms, mannequins and virtual labs, to achieve the goal of learning in this important realm of science. “These modern tools have proved to be superior and student-friendly in the pedagogical practice,” Dr. Sharma said. Dissections in Zoology were redundant; the skill of dissection had no relevance for a student opting for a career or vocation after graduation/ post-graduation in biology/ Zoology, he explained.
Dr. Sharma added: “The current practice of dissection of animals preserved in a toxic chemical called ‘Formaldehyde' or ‘Formalin' has been found to be detrimental to the health of students and has reportedly caused nausea, breathing difficulties, constant head ache, and has even been linked to cancer. Teaching of life sciences by way of dissection and other exercises involving torturing and killing of animals (such as pithing of frog which severs the spinal cord from the brain of a live animal) could impact the psyche of a student and serve to perpetrate the idea that ‘to kill' is both legitimate and acceptable,”
The negative impact of the violence via dissection and killing of animals in class rooms on a young mind was already under scrutiny and research by Psychologists and psychiatrists. The concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) into life sciences was vital in a country that has always commanded the respect of the world on account of its traditional values.
Dr. Sharma said he was preparing a nation-wide plan to get the ban implemented State-wise in the country. Rajasthan will be totally free from dissections during the coming academic session. The Committee Chairman H.A. Ranganath and Members M.A. Akbarsha, Emeritus Professor, Bharathidasan University; Reena Mathur, Head, Department of Zoology, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur; and K.K. Sharma, Head, Department of Zoology, MDS University, Ajmer, Rajasthan also stood their ground in the 20-member committee for the ban on dissections.
Alongwith Nick Jukes, Coordinator, International Network of Humane Education, UK, Dr. Sharma is in the process of preparing a practical manual for alternatives to dissection and animal experimentation in life science education and training. The proposal accepted by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, will be the first of its kind in the whole world, serving thousands of undergraduate and postgraduate Zoology / Life Science students of universities and colleges across the world.