Spec. Issue 2006 - Article Summary

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Alternatives to the use of laboratory animals in veterinary education

Vera Baumans
Department Animals, Science & Society, Division Laboratory Animal Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Veterinary Resources, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

About 75 million vertebrates are used worldwide per year for experimental purposes, of which 10 million within Europe. On average, about 2% is used for education and training purposes. The basis of legislation on the use of animals for experimental purposes is the Three Rs principle of Russell and Burch: replacement, reduction and refinement. Most legislation contains provisions to protect the animals such as the definition of legitimate purposes for animal use, competence of scientists and animal staff, the use of alternatives and prevention of unnecessary pain and distress. One of the legitimate purposes is the use of animals in education and training, only permitted when the objective cannot be achieved by comparable effective audiovisual or any other suitable methods (Art 25, ETS123). In many countries, the use of animals for educational purposes in the veterinary curriculum requires approval by the Animal Ethics Committees. Many alternatives have been developed and are already in use in veterinary education such as interactive videos and computer simulations, in vitro cell cultures, slaughterhouse material, plastinated organs, dead animals from a humane/ethical source and clinical case-based practice. The debate on the use of animals in veterinary education should include the question who benefits: the laboratory animals, the animal patients, the animal owners, the veterinary students, the teachers and/or the management? Concerning the quality of the veterinarian trained with or without live animals, no difference in surgical performance could be shown so far. Future aims should include a listing of case studies on available teaching materials in a database and a large-scale controlled international study on replacement methods in veterinary education.

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