Teaching: Training Medical and Vet Students

How medical and vet students can be trained without harming animals.

Veterinary and medical students are often faced with the prospect of harming animals in their training to help others. However, it doesn't have to be this way. We can train these students without causing harm to animals.

Instead, students could build basic skills with models, mannequins, and simulators (and ethically sourced cadavers) and then move on to shadowing qualified people and doing tasks under close supervision. These alternative methods have many benefits and are being used around the world!

The availability of alternative methods is so great that 100% of medical schools in the US and Canada have ended live animal use for student training.

These medical schools now use non-harmful methods such as lifelike interactive and programmable simulators that better replicate human anatomy and physiology.

  • The Science Bank is a library for teaching materials, including models, mannequins and software. Their borrowing service is limited to the USA, but they do provide online resources and can be used for inspiration as well.
  • Mentone Educational is an Australian distributor of many models, mannequins and simulators that ship to New Zealand.


  • BoneClones has a broad range of human and animal skeleton models as well as muscle structures, brains, and a selection of forensics examples (like gunshot wounds). The replicas are all hand-made to ensure maximum retention of fine detail, with the resign formula advertised as “more durable than real bone”.
  • Somso, a renowned German manufacturer of anatomical models for over 100 years, has a catalogue of different whole-body and organ models for human and animal anatomy. Read Pacific, among others, imports and distributes Somso models in NZ.


  • The Cat Spay Mannequin has the anatomical features required to teach students the surgical procedure and techniques of spaying a cat, including final sutures. Paws 2 Claws also provides mannequins for spaying dogs, urinary catheter training, resuscitation, cystocentesis and cystostomy, tracheostomy and intubation, venipuncture, stitches and bandaging.
  • Rescue Critters is another US-based company specialising in veterinary teaching equipment. They have a variety of mannequins for training techniques from surgery to resuscitation.
  • SurgiReal (USA) provides mannequins for veterinary and human medical training.
  • With Medic, FX showcases an incredible range of models and mannequins of humans of all ages.
  • Vata Inc (USA) manufactures a range of human body part models for training medical professionals. So does Nasco (USA), including whole bodies.
  • Simulaids (UK) provides human mannequins and simulators mainly for medical students, but they also have mannequins for practising dog resuscitation.
  • SynDaver Labs (USA) are a partner of hospitals, medical schools and governmental organisations worldwide, providing highly realistic models and mannequins of whole humans, body parts and a wide range of veterinary trainers.


Simulators mimic real-life responses to different types of treatments.  

  • For example, the Haptic Cow, was developed at the University of Glasgow (UK).1 This Rectal Palpation Simulator creates a 3D, computer-generated simulation that replicates the anatomical structure of a cow through the sense of touch. A haptic feedback unit by 3D Systems (Germany) was fit into a fibreglass model and is currently proving its usefulness at the Royal Veterinary College in London.
  • There are technically advanced simulators for medical students to practise surgeries, like the simulators by Voxel-Man, a German-based international company.
  • Gaumard (USA) has human simulators for different medical scenarios. Combined with high-end software, these provide close-to-real training. Similarly, Nasco (USA) provides simulators for training medical situations like detecting arrhythmia or pneumothorax treatment.
  • Accurate (Italy) is the only Italian company conducting research and development of medical simulation and has a range of simulators and simulation software from cardiology and life support to radiology and surgery.
  • Sectra (US) interactive anatomy tables allow for a state-of-the-art learning platform for medical students. These kinds of devices are manufactured by several companies, for example, Asclepius (Taiwan) and 3B Scientific (Germany). Anatomage (Canada, Europe) also provides tables and software for veterinary students.
  • The turcorp (Ireland) company specialises mostly in simulators and mannequins relating to breathing and airway procedures. Rescue Critters (USA) also have a Breath and Heart Sound Simulator.


  • 3D Dog Anatomy (software by Biosphera 3D) is a virtual program that is used to give vet students an insight into dog anatomy. Biosphera 3D covers several animal species as well as human anatomy in high interactive detail.
  • A project started at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine developed into software that can be purchased for Windows and macOS. Anatomical Science In 3D programs give detailed insight into horses and dogs.
  • InterSpectral Animal Anatomy Exhibition creates anatomy software for Windows10 or as an interactive multi-touch table.
  • VictoryXR Virtual reality dissection simulation software for Oculus Rift and Quest, Vive, HP Reverb, and Windows VR even provides its own virtual teacher in a lab environment with several animal species to choose from.
  • Sectra creates high-end medical devices, and they have a special section for medical education. Their cloud-based education portal connects students and teachers to a vast database of real-life cases, and their interactive table allows for a state-of-the-art learning platform.
  • 3D4 Medical offers downloadable software for human anatomy teaching with different packages for students, professionals and institutions. Primal Pictures offers similar, web-based human anatomy software.
  • Intelligent Ultrasound (UK) uses real-time AI-based image analysis software to provide high-end ultrasound simulators for training medical professionals.
  • zSpace (USA) sells hardware and a wide variety of applications to create an augmented reality learning space.

By using non-harmful teaching methods in veterinarian training, institutes are:

  • Choosing a more ethical option that doesn't harm any animals.
  • This could also decrease the risk of future vets becoming desensitized to animals in pain or discomfort.2
  • Being forced to use animals in a way they see as wrong can push students to end this career path.3 We don't want to lose compassionate people in a field where this quality is so needed.
  • Increasing (or maintaining) academic outcomes by providing for different learning styles and allowing students to repeat exercises to consolidate learning. Approximately 90% of published educational evaluations have shown that students being taught with non-harmful teaching methods achieved the same or better learning outcomes than those using live animals.4,5,6
  • Reducing the physical risk to students. Animal-based methods sometimes include the use of highly toxic chemicals (i.e. chemicals used for preserving specimens are usually toxic, like paraformaldehyde).7
  • Decreasing the psychological and emotional risks to students by creating a more inclusive and safer learning environment where students won't feel ethically and emotionally challenged by harming animals.8
  • Decreasing the risk of student anxiety by training surgical skills with alternative methods before operating on live animals.9
  • Avoiding veterinary students objecting to harmful teaching practices, which can lead to serious negative publicity up to legal consequences for the educational institutions regarding the student’s rights.10

Find out more via the video below by our friends at Humane Research Australia:


Non-harmful teaching methods are being adopted around the world.

Examples include:

  • An example of alternative methods being used in NZ to train vets has featured on national news in 2018 - Massey University is using mannequins to teach vets students! Read more here.
  • The veterinary teaching at Tufts University eliminated terminal laboratories from its curriculum in 1994 as the first one in the USA. For dissections in anatomy classes, they ethically source cadavers through a donation program.
  • Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUSVM, USA) built their ethical clinical skills lab (CSL) in 2010, set up to train future vets without using invasive procedures involving live animals. Prof. Andrew Knight has outlined what was involved in setting this laboratory up, running it and growing its teaching scope to include a wider range of surgical, medical and other clinical skills.11 This CSL is showing promising results as demonstrated by the positive feedback received from students — A survey showed that 95% of students felt that CSL had improved their psychomotor skills! This emphasises that when alternatives are used instead of live animals for training vet students, the same academic outcome can be reached or even exceeded. Read the report for free here (3rd entry). The current Academic Catalog stresses the use of simulators and models and does not use terminal surgery.
  • International Veterinary Simulation in Teaching (InVeST) is an international group of veterinary doctors connecting through regular conferences to share and enhance knowledge around teaching through models and simulations.
  • The College of Veterinary Medicine (Illinois, USA) reports that new students regularly choose this school because of its excellent Clinical Skills Lab. They dropped live-terminal training many years ago.
  • Western University (USA) also proudly uses its “willed-body” program to access cadavers for dissections ethically. Training is performed with inanimate and dynamic models. Live animals are only treated for their naturally occurring diseases or sterilization.
  • The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA, USA) reports on their efforts to get US institutions to drop terminal surgeries in their teaching.

Prof. Andrew Knight gives an excellent review of ethical teaching methods for vet students that we highly recommend reading here.

With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.