India’s government has banned the use of live animals in educational and research institutions. According to the Times of India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has ordered colleges, universities, research institutes, hospitals and laboratories to stop using live animals for dissection and experiments and to use alternatives including computer simulation and mannequin models. Only those engaging in molecular research are exempt from the ban.
The MoEF has said that universities and other institutions are “duty-bound to use alternatives to avoid unnecessary suffering or pain to animals.” Computer simulations and model mannequins are, says the MoEF, actually “superior learning tools in teaching of pharmacy or life sciences.”
India’s 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act established the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments and Animals (CPCSEA), which contributed to the guidelines. Mangal Jain, a nominee of the Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC) (which is appointed by the CPCSEA), gaves these details:
The animal experiments should be stopped in all institutes except for the purpose of new molecular research. Sometimes, in laboratories, a lot of work is repeated and animals become unnecessary victims. Only scientists researching on a new molecular theory can experiment on animals. In medical and pharmacy colleges, there is unwanted cruelty towards animals which can be avoided. These guidelines mention imprisonment for five years and monetary penalty.
As Jain’s statement makes clear, using animals in experiments and for activities such as dissection is simply “unwanted cruelty.” Too often, animals become “unnecessary victims” in such experiments. Now that we have technologies such as computer simulations, dissecting actual animals — a rite of passage for generations of high school biology students in the U.S. — simply isn’t necessary.
Hoshang Bilimoria, a nominee appointed by the CPCSEA, also says that the committee’s members should be able to “to inspect animals housed in educational institutes, experimentation centres or technical laboratories without prior intimation to the institutes,” in order to ensure that animals used for scientific research are treated ethically.
India’s decision to shift its reliance from harmful and often unreliable animal models to robust non-animal approaches for biomedical research and education is a major step in the right direction and they are on a path to leadership in replacing animals in experiments.
As the Human Society International also notes, in just one year some 100 million animals are “bred, injected, infected, cut open, genetically altered, force-fed drugs, chemicals and ultimately killed for scientific research, testing and education.” The society calls on governments across the globe to follow India’s lead and conduct “non-animal research” and use humane alternatives.
How can we advocate for universities and hospitals in the U.S. and around the globe to follow India’s lead?
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Photo of fetal pig by MUSICi o.O