Educational use of animals in Europe indicates a reluctance to implement alternatives

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Miriam A. Zemanova
Andrew Knight
Susanna Lybæk


Animals have been considered an indispensable tool to teach about the functioning of living organisms, to obtain skills necessary for practicing human and veterinary medicine, as well as for acquiring skills for caring for and conducting experiments on animals in laboratories. However, the efficacy of this practice has been questioned in the last decades and societal views have evolved to put a much larger emphasis on animal welfare and ethics that needs to be reflected in our teaching and training practices. Currently, many alternatives to harmful animal use are available, and it is not clear why thousands of animals continue to be used every year for educational and training purposes. Therefore, this study aimed to identify reasons for the lack of uptake of non-harmful educational and training methods by analysing recently published non-technical summaries in the EU and EEA Member States, and to provide examples of alternatives for specific learning objectives. Results from non-technical summaries from 18 countries spanning the most recent years (2017-2019) revealed that the two main perceived reasons for continued animal use are 1) the necessity of using a living animal for ‘proper’ learning and 2) the lack of an adequate alternative. We argue that these reasons often do not reflect reality. In conclusion, we consider it is necessary to put a stronger emphasis on engagement with ethical questions that underlie the use of animals and careful consideration of how the learning objectives could be achieved through non-harmful alternatives.

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Zemanova, M., Knight, A. and Lybæk, S. (2021) “Educational use of animals in Europe indicates a reluctance to implement alternatives”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. doi: 10.14573/altex.2011111.

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