Animals are harmfully used for a variety of different teaching exercises. A lot of the time, these exercises are being used to reinforce to students a concept that they have already been taught about, via lectures and textbooks, rather than being used as a primary teaching method.
When we refer to the 'harmful use of animals', we are talking about any teaching method where animals are forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain, injury, distress or death and that is not meant to benefit the individual subject i.e. that specific animal involved.
Some common examples of these are:
- animal dissection
- behavioural experiments
- chemical manipulation
- surgical, clinical or technician practice
All of these teaching examples happen at the University of Otago, one way or another:
The University of Otago has students participate in animal dissection exercises for a number of purposes; a lot of these involve teaching anatomy or physiology concepts. In one paper, students are required to partake in dissections with the purpose of learning about the structure of the knee and heart. Another is to help students 'understand' the differences and similarities between species.
For a behavioural experiment, rats were trained to discriminate between different stimuli and then they were tested to see which stimulus controls their behaviour. Another: rats were put through an experiment that involves them running to get food which may not always be there. Both of these exercises are supposed to demonstrate concepts of operant conditioning to students. These animals are food deprived to be 85% of their ad lib weight (their "free-feeding" weight) during the experiments, which is a significant weight loss.
For a teaching exercise that involves chemical manipulation, the university will take a mother rat that has pups and during the experiment, the mother rat will be given an injection of oxytocin and then the pups will be weighed to see how much milk they are receiving; demonstrating that certain physiological functions require hormonal stimulation to occur. Once the teachers have finished demonstrating this principle to the students, the animals are no longer required, so the mother rats will be killed by lethal injection, and the pups will be killed by having their heads cut off with scissors.
Another example of a harmful teaching exercise using chemical manipulation — Rats will be surgically altered by removing certain reproductive/endocrine organs, and then will instead have an implant placed inside their body to release certain hormones. Once this experiment has been demonstrated to students, the rats are killed and disposed of. Eels also go through similar teaching experiments at Otago University.
Mice and rats are used at Otago for students to 'learn' and practice certain techniques that would fall under the class surgical, clinical or technician practice; such as techniques in anaesthesia, blood collection, methods of euthanasia, aseptic techniques and surgical principles.
These are just some examples of the current use of animals for 'teaching' at the University of Otago — there are many many more.
Thousands of animals are being harmed to 'enrich' student education — this is not acceptable, this is not necessary, and this is not humane. Uni should be pain-free for everyone.
Globally, action is being taken to fully replace the use of animals in dissections and other harmful teaching methods. When will the University of Otago realize they need to stop this archaic practice and start embracing innovative humane teaching methods instead?
Read about the University of Otago's history of harming animals to 'teach' students here.