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Position Statement on Use of Animals in Teaching

The BC SPCA is opposed to the use of any animal, including cadavers or tissues, for dissection in education except when training animal professionals in post-secondary institutions. The BC SPCA is opposed to students at any educational level, being compelled either to perform or watch animal dissection, and supports students who opt out of animal dissection assignments on conscientious grounds. Alternatives to dissection, such as computer simulations and models, should be made available to all students.

When studying behaviours of animals in their natural state or environment, animals should not be distressed or disrupted from performing natural behaviours, nor be forced to perform unnatural behaviours.

When training animal professionals (e.g., veterinarians, technicians, animal protection staff) some use of animals or tissues may be appropriate so long as:

  • there is proven educational merit to the activity and it has gone through an appropriate review process;
  • non-animal alternatives are unavailable;
  • wild animal cadavers from rehabilitation facilities are provided to institutions under government permit conditions;
  • live animals are not likely to experience pain, distress or suffering, which may necessitate use of adequate anaesthesia¹ and analgesia; and,
  • live animals are being kept according to the Five Freedoms.

Approved by the Board of Directors – September 2015

(replaces Educational Dissection, July 2009)

Footnotes

1 Pithing is not considered adequate anaesthesia

Background

The national oversight organization for animals in science, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), states there is no justification for teaching practices that are painful to animals. The CCAC indicates that teaching protocols rated at the highest level of invasiveness (Category E) should not be approved by institutions.

Unlike other forms of animal use in teaching, the use of animals in high school education does not fall under the mandate of the CCAC, nor does the dissection of externally sourced animal cadavers at universities. Given the myriad of non-animal alternatives that exist, the Society advocates for the implementation of educational resources which provide alternatives to dissection at any education level.

The BC SPCA also recommends that there should be a clearly defined ethics and animal welfare component in all higher education courses in the biological sciences with emphasis on understanding the needs of animals and human responsibility toward them, which should encourage students to explore the ethics of animal use.

For other animals kept in confinement for teaching purposes, see the BC SPCA position statement on Classroom Pets.

Background updated – September 2015

Definitions

Animal: A living being belonging to the kingdom Animalia Anaesthesia: Temporary insensitivity to pain or loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs.

Analgesia: The inability to feel pain, without the loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs.

Five Freedoms: A concept first developed in 1965 by The Brambell Committee, formed by the UK government to examine the conditions on commercial farms. Now internationally recognized, the Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms (adapted from the original list) are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms form the basis of the Society’s Charter and describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of all animals in human care. The Society acknowledges that these freedoms are not enforceable and that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but strongly encourages all animal guardians to strive to provide them.

Pithing: To pierce or sever the spinal cord of an animal so as to kill or immobilize it.

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