NEW DELHI: After the University Grants Commission (UGC) banned animal dissection in all colleges and universities, teachers and students of Delhi University are worried about the declining standards of science education.
In 2011, the UGC imposed a partial ban on animal dissection and directed all universities and colleges to stop experimentation on animals for training purposes for Zoology and life sciences at the undergraduate level. In August 2014, the UGC extended the ban to postgraduate levels.
“Irrespective of whether someone likes animals, if a student has to understand a frog or a rabbit and their internal organs, there is no other option than to dissect the animals,” said Neeta Sehgal, Head of Zoology Department at DU.
The department has repeatedly requested UGC and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to revoke the ban, but to no avail.
The ban was enforced after numerous appeals were made to UGC by PETA India.
The Prevention of Cruelty to animals Act 1960 renders “unlawful the performance of experiments (including) experiments involving operations) on animals for the purpose of advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or of knowledge which will be useful for saving or for prolonging life or alleviating suffering or for combating any disease, whether of human beings, animals or plants”.
In the last four years there has been no frog experiment in the department. “Some studies can only be done on frogs for learning, but we have not being doing any for the last four years. This ban is hurting the in-depth knowledge of students, ” says Sehgal.
The UGC says non-animal methods—including computer simulations, interactive CD-ROMs, films and lifelike models—should be used to teach anatomy and complex biological processes, which are better than cruel, archaic animal laboratories processes.
But it is easier said than done. “Simulation on computers doesn’t help. The links the UGC provides for learning do not work properly. Students don’t even get a basic idea of what they are seeing on the screen,” says Sehgal.
“Without basic and fundamental knowledge, one may be shaky during bigger surgical operations” said a Zoology student from Hindu College.
Why The Ban?
The ban was implemented following appeals to the UGC from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and former minister of animal welfare Maneka Gandhi to stop animal dissection and ensure compliance with MoEF guidelines.