New Delhi: In an interesting turn of events, an expert committee of the Union environment ministry, which is supposed to regulate experiments on animals, has requested the University Grants Commission (UGC) to reconsider the ban on animal dissection in undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
In 2014, UGC, which is India’s nodal body for promoting and coordinating university education including maintaining standards of teaching, examination and research in universities, had come out with complete prohibition on animal dissection in both undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) curriculum in the country. It had, instead, advised use of digital alternatives, models and charts in place of animal dissection.
Now in its latest letter (dated 30 March) sent to UGC chairman Ved Prakash, the environment ministry’s Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) said that during one of their recent meetings, the members insisted that “due to the ban imposed by UGC, the students and establishments have been facing a lot of problems and a total ban on the use of animals as experimental teaching tools will have serious consequences on teaching of animal sciences”.
“On recommendations of the members of CPCSEA, I would like to request UGC to revisit the complete ban of animal dissection and experimentation in UG and PG curriculum as per practical needs and instead, wherever possible, the use of alternative animal models to be encouraged,” said S. Gowri Shankar, who is CPCSEA’s member secretary and deputy secretary in environment ministry’s animal welfare division, in his letter to UGC Chairman.
This is not the first time that the committee has made such a move.
In April 2015, the committee had forwarded to UGC a letter by Dr Neeta Sehgal, who is head of Delhi University’s zoology department and sought her view.
Sehgal in her letter had stressed on the importance of the use of different animals in gaining knowledge of fundamental processes of life. She had further requested UGC to allow the use of laboratory animals at the PG level for “meaningful teaching to serve nature and mankind”.
Formed under India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, CPCSEA’s objective is to regulate experiments on animals and ensure they are not subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering before, during or after the performance of experiments on them.
Experts have, however, slammed CPCSEA for the move.
“CPCSEA is leading us back to stone age while the PM is leading the country towards digital India. Instead of promoting digital models for animals in labs, the environment ministry is asking for animals to be used. The body that is constituted to replace animal testing is promoting it—this letter stinks of impropriety,” said N.G. Jayasimha, member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, the country’s top organisation for animal welfare.