Favouring replacement of animal dissections for experimentation in a phased manner with the acquisition of appropriate technology, an expert committee of the University Grants Commission(UGC) has suggested a reduction in the number of animals, and the kind of species used for dissection and experimentation, and said preference should be given to laboratory bred animal models.
The expert committee, set up in January this year to consider discontinuation of dissection in zoology and life sciences, has recommended that only one species be taken up for demonstration by the faculty and that students should not do any dissection at the undergraduate level. The post graduate students should be given the option to perform dissection of `selected species' as per the curriculum or to have a project related to biodiversity or bio-sytematics.
In its report, submitted to the UGC on June 28 and to be forwarded to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry, the committee has advocated that all higher education institutions must establish `Dissection Monitoring Committees'' (DMC) to look into the utilisation of animals and asked the University Grants Commission to provide guidelines for the same.
They must strictly adhere to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it said. In the long term, the committee wants the higher education institutions to adopt alternative modalities for animal dissection, experimentation through software development ; and empowering zoology, life sciences departments with appropriate information communication technology for implementing the recommendations.
The suggestion, however, do not apply to biomedical research and testing.
The committee comprises, H.A.Ranganath, chairman of National Assessment and Accreditation Council; S. Balasubramanian, Director Centre for Life Sciences, Bharathiar University; Dr. Sunil Chumber from AIIMS; Prof Rup Lal, Delhi University; Javed Agrawala, Institute of Microbial Technology; Prof M.A. Akbarsha, Bharathidasan University; and B.K. Sharma, R.L.Saharia Govt P.G.College, Jaipur.
According to estimates, the total number of science undergraduate students in India exceeds 1.5 million, and if these recommendations are accepted, close to 9 million animals per academic session would be saved if 2 species are dissected in each of the three B.Sc Zoology classes by each student. This figure comes close to 18 million if each undergraduate student dissects two animals, one for routine class work and another during practical examination. Another million animals are dissected for experiments at the postgraduate level in the Indian universities.
Dissection of animals was introduced in 1920 when life science education was made part of biology. However, it has recently come under scrutiny world over on question of necessity, relevance and its value for teaching purposes. Environmental, legal and psychological, social and ethical concerns have been raised with regard to the use of animals.