National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

European Commission Expert Working Group on education and training

Posted: 1 October 2014. Updated: 1 October 2014

The aim of the EWG meeting was to “develop a common framework to facilitate meeting the requirements for competence of all those involved in use and care of animals for scientific purposes” as well as allowing the free movement of workers throughout the European Union. This included producing an outline of training and accreditation courses as well as defining the roles, tasks and training for those involved in animal research.

Training is based on modules which have specific “Learning Outcomes” and are aimed at ensuring the trainee has developed a “suitable level of understanding” of their tasks/duties/procedures. Supervision is required until the person has demonstrated competence and training is considered to be a continuous process.

The use of live animals for the purpose of education is an issue which the document says divides views: “In many Member States, the use of live animals for this purpose has been in decline for many years. If education without the use of live animals is achievable in some institutes...the question beckons why this would not be achievable elsewhere” .

A survey commissioned by the Lord Dowding Fund cast some light on the reasons why institutions did not use computer based alternatives to animals in education and training. It showed that difficulty in finding the resources and a lack of money were considered the main issues.

The EU document claims that the use of animals in vocational training may be “more readily justified” than their use in education citing, for example, the development of surgical skills. However, hundreds of humane teaching methods have now been developed and approximately “90% of published educational evaluations have demonstrated that students using humane alternatives achieve superior or equivalent learning outcomes, such as the acquisition of clinical or surgical skills or theoretical knowledge” . 1

Even for intricate surgery there is an alternative. The use of the human placenta as a medium for training in microsurgery techniques has made the use of animals in this area obsolete. One paper reviewing the technique concluded that “the dissection of human placenta is a very good microsurgical training” . 2

Module 9, which is for those designing procedures and projects involving the use of animals, requires an understanding of the “critical evaluation of the justification for using animals” . Similarly, module 25, which is concerned with training the project evaluator, requires an assessment of the likelihood of success of the project. However, no matter how well designed or assessed animal experiments appear to be, they are inherently unreliable due to species differences. The harm-benefit assessment will inevitably be biased towards the approval of project licences to carry out research, if species differences are not considered.

1. Knight, A (2011) “The Potential of Human Teaching Methods within Veterinary and Other Biomedical Education” ALTEX Proceedings, vol.1, no. 1 pp: 365 – 275
2. Romero, F. R et al (2008) “Microsurgical techniques using human placenta” Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp: 876 - 878.

Find out about other EWG reports on:
Genetically altered animals
Non-technical project summaries
Project evaluation/retrospective assessment
Severity assessment

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