Welcome ban

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has done well to order a comprehensive ban on dissection of all animals at under-graduate and post-graduate levels in colleges across the country.  The ban takes forward restrictions on dissection that the UGC imposed in 2011.

The 2011 order was aimed at a phasing out dissection. To that end, it put in place a few first steps restricting dissection of animals. Thus, students at the under-graduate level were not permitted to dissect but could watch a teacher doing so. At the post-graduate level, students could dissect animals that were not unprotected species.

Colleges were encouraged to opt for other methods to impart understanding of animal anatomy and physiology. However, over the past three years, college have done little to phase out dissection, triggering a renewed attempt by animal activists and a section of educators to push the UGC to end dissection of animals in all forms. The 2014 order banning dissection is the outcome of this effort.

Dissection of animals is repugnant and unethical. It amounts to torture of living beings as the animal is often alive when it is dissected. Its use in teaching, training and testing legitimises using extreme violence against animals.

It even discourages the developing of compassion and kindness among students to other living creatures as dissection desensitises us to the suffering of others. Besides, dissection of animals takes a toll on biodiversity and ecology. There is a worrying decline in some frog species, for instance.

Some will justify the cruelty of dissection and the dwindling numbers of some species as necessary costs that must be borne for the sake of knowledge and understanding of animal anatomy. They will argue that dissection gives students a better ‘touch and feel’ of the animal’s body parts.

Such arguments may have had some merit decades ago. They do not, today, where modern technology provides equally good if not better dissection alternatives. Anatomical models, audio-visual aids, interactive and three-dimensional computer simulations are among several options available today.

Computerised dissection allows students to re-examine, pause, reverse, repeat and zoom in or out on specific organs repeatedly. These dissection alternatives are cost-effective and do not damage biodiversity.

Biology is the science of life. How can we teach it through the suffering and death of other beings? Life sciences should be about respecting all life forms. The UGC ban on dissection of animals will take the study of life sciences in India closer in that direction.

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