Justifying Animal Use in Education

Environmental Ethics 34 (2):199-209 (2012)
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Is the use of animals in undergraduate education ethically justifiable? One way to answer this question is to focus on the factors relevant to those who serve on Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees . An analysis of the debate surrounding the practice of dissection at the undergraduate level helps shed light on these issues. Settling that debate hinges on claims about the kind of knowledge gained from dissection and other “hands-on” kinds of experiences, and whether such knowledge is needed to meet educational goals. Most undergraduate courses will probably lack a sufficient justification for the use of animals for dissection, since the educational goals can be met with non-animal alternatives. In addition, there are some general guidelines that can be extrapolated from this debate, which should be of assistance in deciding whether a sufficient justification has been given for animal use. One guideline is that justifications for animal use should require demonstrating that the use adds value to the educational experience in a way that is directly tied to the course objectives. Furthermore, the use of animals should not be simply built into the objectives of a course in such a way that the use is merely assumed, with no actual justification provided. One must beware of putative standards for justification that would fail to rule out any possible animal use.
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