To dissect or not, is the question

To dissect or not, is the question

To dissect or not, is the question

Spending more than five hours in the laboratory each day just to understand the anatomy and physiology of animals like rats and frogs through dissection, students of BSc, Zoology (Hons) or those doing research work know exactly what it is like.

But as per the new guidelines by the University Grants Commission (UGC), students who aspire to be future scientists will no longer be dissecting animals for experimentation or training.

The moot question here is: Will the latest development help students in the long run or is it the time to change the curriculum rather than largely emphasising on alternative methods?

 “The UGC's latest action is now in line with the 2012 Ministry of Environment and Forests' directive to the UGC,” says Dr Chaitanya Koduri, Science Policy Advisor, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

“We have been fighting against the dissection of animals since 2011. UGC at that time issued only guidelines to which universities did not adhere to. Now, after more than two years of battle, the UGC has now issued regulations making it mandatory for all universities and colleges to stop dissection of animals.”

As informed by Koduri, students will now be doing virtual dissection. “Universities must be allocating funds to the science departments for setting up laboratories for simulations. The alternative method of simulation involves display of animal’s anatomy through high resolution pictures, videos and dissection of animals through different software.”

According to him, science students especially in the Zoology stream should now move out of the stereotypical classrooms. “Through dissection, students understand the anatomy of the animals, which is not important. Instead focus should be on molecular biology, immunology and genetics.”

But Professor Ashok Kumar Singh, head of department, Zoology, expresses his anguish on the notion of anatomy’s irrelevance in BSc and zoology courses.

“We can understand science through factuality. Understanding molecular biology won’t be easy if a student does not know about organs. If an Indian student applies to any foreign university for research, where dissection is not banned, then how would that student deal with it? Will he be able to do justice to his
research work?”

Hinting that UGC and PETA are working in tandem with each other, Singh tells Metrolife, “The latest move by the UGC has been taken under the constant pressure of PETA and software manufacturing companies to fill their pockets. On the one hand, Government is allowing companies to endorse their products that can kill cockroaches and rats, while on the other hand they are banning dissection of these animals in laboratories. Why so?”

If Singh is to be believed, the regulation is not meant for education purpose but to benefit technology companies. “Each year, money will be charged from the universities to install the software. It will be a permanent mode to generate revenue through universities keeping the fate of students at stake,” he says.

But there are academicians who are in favour of UGC’s regulation.  Akbar Shah, director, Mahatma Gandhi-Doerenkamp Centre (MGDC) for Alternatives to Use of Animals in Life Science Education, Tiruchirappalli says, “The latest move hints at the immediate need of reviving the curriculum. We have to now adequately make use of the alternative methods, rather than sticking to obsolete exercises.”

When asked about the availability of software that can serve the purpose of a postgraduate student, whose major part of the study includes dissection, Shah says, “Alternative method may not fulfil the exact requirement. Like in many universities snake dissection is a part of the curriculum. However, at present there is no software related to snake dissection. In that case, any other specimen that has a similar anatomy like snake can serve the purpose.” 

He prompltly points out that he has 40-50 softwares on dissection of different

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