After ‘Gandhigiri', it is time now to promote ‘ahimsa,' with several universities across the country in the process of banning dissection of animals in laboratories for experiments.

From this academic year (2010-11), two universities in Rajasthan — the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur and the Ajmer-based MDS University — will become dissection-free. They have taken initiatives to introduce ‘multimedia computer-based humane alternatives' and will incorporate these in the curriculum.

Garhwal University in Uttarakhand and Bharatidasan University in Tamil Nadu too have stopped dissecting animals for zoological experiments. Replacement has been done in some universities in Gujarat and Kerala.

“Dissection of animals to teach morphology, anatomy, evolution and zoology and life sciences is no longer required. With the technological advancements, we now have pedagogical methods, including models, multimedia computer-based simulators, interactive CD-Roms, mannequins and virtual laboratories to achieve the goal of learning in this important realm of science,” says B.K. Sharma, Head of the Department of Zoology, R.L. Saharia Government PG College (Kaladera), Jaipur. Dr. Sharma, who is also a member of the University Grants Commission's expert committee that has recommended phasing out of dissection in undergraduate and postgraduate courses, says these modern tools were humane and had proved much better than hands-on use of animals.

“It has been found by scientists and academics that dissections in zoology were redundant and that the skill of dissection acquired through zoology course has no relevance for a student opting for a career after graduation or postgraduation in biology,” he told The Hindu.

Dr. Sharma believes the recommendations of the UGC's committee would deal a death blow to the nexus between institutions of higher education and the “catchers, killers and suppliers” of animals in India. It would also save a huge amount of money being spent for the purpose. The formalin, or formaldehyde, used as preservative also had a detrimental impact on students.

“The negative impact of violence via dissection and killing of animals in classrooms on a young mind is already under scrutiny by psychologists and psychiatrists. It is at this juncture that I propose the use of the concepts of social sciences — non-violence — to be brought into the life sciences if we have to survive as a country which always commanded the respect of the rest of the world on account of our traditional values,” he said.

Animal lovers had been for over a year running a campaign in favour of a ban on dissection. They had been flooding committee members with emails saying: “Science is the study of life and should, therefore, teach respect for life — a lesson that cannot be learned when treating living beings as disposable objects and killing them. By using modern, humane teaching methods, instructors can teach both science and ethics simultaneously.”

Compassionate students want to study science without dissecting animals. Sophisticated computer simulations, videodiscs and models have been developed to meet these needs.

All studies of this issue show that students who use non-animal teaching methods perform at least as well — and usually better than — students who dissect, while saving money and encouraging respect for all beings, some of the mails said.