Marking a major shift in zoology and life sciences curriculum which was being followed in the country for well over 90 years, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced phasing out of animal dissection for experimental purposes at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels, replacing these by alternative models including virtual dissection. Animal ethics will also be included in the appropriate course to sensitise students.
The decision is based on the recommendations of a task force set up following demands by environmentalists and animal lovers in view of cruelty meted out to animals during experiments in laboratories by students, and the dwindling number of species used in experiments including frogs. For both UG and PG programmes now there will be a reduction in the number of animals for dissection and experimentation as well as in the number of species with all ethical considerations. Preference shall be given to laboratory-bred animal models.
According to the new guidelines which will be applicable to all departments at universities and colleges dealing with animals for teaching and learning, dissection of animals for class work is to be replaced in a phased manner with acquisition of appropriate technology and development of human resource for the same. All educational institutions coming under the purview of the UGC shall prescribe laboratory curriculum involving animals in such a way as virtual dissection; shall prescribe laboratory curriculum involving animals in a way compassionate towards the animals; avoid experiments on animals, wherever possible, and use alternatives instead. Experiments on animals are not performed merely for the purpose of acquiring manual skill, and not to use animals protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, particularly frogs and fish, the guidelines suggest.
Further, “Animal ethics” would be included as a chapter in an appropriate course of study. In order to sensitise students and other stakeholders, the departments shall display the highlights of the Acts in the laboratories and elsewhere. The departments may also adopt other modalities to popularise the science and sentiments of the provisions of these Acts.
Every educational institution coming under the purview of UGC which is engaged in dissection of animals and experiments using animals shall constitute a Dissection Monitoring Committee (DMC) which will be different from the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC) under the purview of the Committee for Purpose of Care and Supervision of Experimental Animals (CPCSEA), Department of Environment & Forests.
The head of the department concerned shall be the convener and chairperson of the Committee. It shall be the responsibility of DMC to ensure that animals that are permitted to be used for dissections/experiments in the new guidelines are procured from ethical sources, and not removed from the wild for these purposes, and transported to the laboratory without stress or strain to the animals if alive and anaesthetized appropriately if they are to be used in dissections.
The institution shall maintain appropriate records of procurement of animals, their transport if alive, number of animals used, and use of anaesthesia/euthanasia if applicable.