Animal use in veterinary education

Woon, S. Y. (2011). A Veterinary Student’s Perspective on Educational Animal Use and the Potential for Humane Alternatives. ALTEX Proceedings, 1/12, Proceedings of WC8, 377-385.

The author of this paper discusses veterinary students’ attitudes to using animals in veterinary education. Examples of ethical ways of sourcing animals for educational purposes, such as cadaver donation programmes, are provided.

Veterinary students across the world are often provided with animals as learning tools during their education, but some of these animals may not be ethically sourced. The author explains that the use of animals in veterinary education needs to be carefully considered, especially as there are now non–animal alternatives available. Veterinary students’ attitudes towards the use of dog cadavers during their course were investigated. The methodology included distributing surveys to veterinary students at the University of Sydney.

What do students think?

During the survey the students were asked to select their preference for one of the following: donated dog cadavers (which were ethically soured), ex-racing greyhound cadavers, pound dog cadavers, or no preference. Half of the respondents had no preference, demonstrating a lack of moral consideration. Some students (18%) preferred to use greyhound cadavers as they were usually healthy and had less fat. The author refers to the fact that some students may be desensitised regarding the use of animals for learning purposes. The author concludes by summarising humane alternatives, including cadaver donation programmes, plastinated models, multimedia resources and silicone models. It is proposed that these humane alternatives may benefit the veterinary profession by developing ethical and compassionate attitudes in students whilst they learn. 

World Animal Protection’s view 

We believe that the three R’s: reduction, replacement, and refinement, should be applied whenever possible in veterinary education. We believe that if using animals in veterinary education is deemed necessary, then these animals should be ethically sourced, such as through a cadaver donation programme. As an organisation we agree with the author that it is very important that veterinary students develop compassionate attitudes towards animals during their education.