In an unprecedented move aimed at removing cruelty from higher education, India has banned dissection and experimentation on animals at the nation's universities. Instead, students will learn about anatomy through humane alternatives, like computer simulators that replicate the experience without requiring any animals be killed.
According to an estimate from PETA India, the ban will save the lives of 19 million animals every year.
India's University Grants Commission (UGC), which ordered an immediate end to training methods lethal to animals in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs, says the decision came about over concerns that too many animals were being taken from the wild.
"With the increase in number of institutions, more than a million students undergo programs requiring animal dissections. Most of these animals are caught from the wildlife," the UGC wrote. "Their indiscriminate removal from their natural habitats disrupts the biodiversity and ecological balance... The case of frogs, the population of which has declined to alarming levels in recent times, is often cited as an example."
In place of actual animals, the UGC suggests universities explore using one of the many "virtual dissection" computer simulators available on the market. Proponents say that such programs aren't only more humane, but may also be a more effective education tool than actual dissections.
For Dr. Chaitanya Koduri, Science Policy Advisor at the UGC, the decision is about being both forward-thinking and compassionate-minded.
"By issuing a notification to eliminate animal dissection and experimentation for training purposes, the UGC will modernize science education across the country and save precious lives," he says.