UGC bans dissection of animals in higher education

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has put a complete ban on dissection of animals both by students and teachers at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in higher educational institutions which come under its purview.

Though the higher education regulator has exempted “research programmes” from the ban, it has made it clear to all the universities that no experiment on animals should be done “merely for the purpose of acquiring manual skills.”

The commission, however, prohibited the use of frogs belonging to genus Rana, any Elasmobranch fish (like sharks and rays) in laboratory exercises of research programmes. It also prohibited laboratory experiments on animals protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The UGC’s directive will be applicable to all undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes run by departments of Zoology/Life Science and allied disciplines of all universities, including deemed to be universities, as well as their constituent and affiliated colleges. 

“For undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, both at major and allied levels, no animal from any species shall be dissected, either by teachers or students for any purpose,” the UGC said in its letter to the vice-chancellors of all universities on August 5, apprising them of its decision.

The teachers will demonstrate one or more aspects of anatomy to students with the help of digital alternatives, models and charts, it added.

“The curriculum, both theoretical and practical for invertebrates and chordates, as the case may be, shall be oriented towards levels and patterns of organisation,” it said.

The laboratory exercises should make use of museum specimens and microscopic preparations, photographs, video clippings, models, charts, field observations combined with photography and videography.

The commission noted that various digital alternatives, like ProDissector, BioLab Frog and Dissection works are available in plenty on “various platforms” and in the market. Many of these digital learning devices have modules for testing, which can be used to evaluate students in examinations.

“They should be suitably procured from commercial sources on the Internet,” it said, directing the varsities to develop “skilled laboratories” to train students on interactive plastic models.

Peta, an animal rights organisation, welcomed the UGC’s notification and described it as “progressive”.

“By issuing a notification to eliminate animal dissection and experimentation for training purposes, the commission will modernise science education across the country and save precious lives,” Chaitanya Koduri, Peta’s science policy adviser, said.

The notification also means students should never again be forced to choose between enrolling for science courses and staying true to their moral beliefs against cruelty to animals, he added

The commission has asked varsities to set up dissection monitoring committees. It has also asked them to revise the curriculum in line with its instruction and include “animal ethics” as a chapter in appropriate courses of study in order to sensitise students and other stakeholders

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