Thousands of animals are used to 'teach' students at the University of Otago. Regardless of whether the animal suffered a little or a lot, the majority of these animals will be killed during or shortly after they have 'served their purpose.'
Of course this is cruel, but you may ask, what can be used instead? When you look at all the non-harmful teaching methods options available today, you'll be left wondering why any institute would still be choosing to harm animals. There are so many kinds of non-harmful teaching methods, including software, anatomical models, simulation manikins, online resources, virtual reality and more!
Wanting to teach anatomy with a physical body in front of you? No problem! Syndaver Labs create synthetic bodies/body parts and make their materials from water, fibres and salts so to mimic the real tissue version of each body. Their synthetic tissue is a better representation of live tissue than the dead tissue of a cadaver and unlike a cadaver, it can last virtually forever with proper maintenance.
Their human anatomy line includes a mortuary model, anatomy model, musculoskeletal model and more! Their synthetic human cadaver is complete with all bones, joints, muscles, organs and tendons in normal anatomy, and major nervious system and vascular components are also included.
Syndaver Labs are prepared for surgical simulation too, with their human surgical model having extra features such as a heart which pumps heated synthetic blood, and has been used for a wide variety of procedures including laparoscopic surgery with insufflation, bowel resection and angioplasty.
(Photo credit to Syndaver Labs)
Suturing is an important part of any medical or veterinary profession, so having a simulator to practice these techniques on is crucial. The University of Otago does not teach any veterinary courses but they have one of the only medical schools in New Zealand.
Surgireal allows students to practice stitching in a human in a real-life way by using their synthetic tissue products. Their range has anatomically correct tissue layering with the layers engineered to closely replicate real tissue, and the tissue can also realistically bleed when cut.
They have both human and animal synthetic tissue pads (because different species have different skin) and a variety of specific products, such as human vascular simulators.
(Photo credit to Surgireal)
Ward's Realistic Frog
In certain courses, it is relevant to learn about an animals (non-human) anatomy through a dissection exercise. But an institute doesn't have to harm an animal to do so, they can choose to use a dissection model instead!
Ward's has created a realistic frog which comes in a male and female version and was originally cast from a deceased frog. It features over 50 colourful details from a multitude of body systems, and is very similar to what you would see when doing an actual dissection - minus the cruelty! Ward's makes a range of other animal versions that institutes can use instead of real animals e.g. rat, pregnant cat, perch.
(Photo credit to The Science Bank)
Body Works Eve
But how can we teach advanced ultrasound training in class without using a real body? Everyone, meet Eve.
Bodyworks Eve is an ultra-realistic female patient simulator, designed for interactive and immersive Point of Care Ultrasound scenario training. Complete with 100 real patient scans and over 10,000 pathology variations across cardiac, lung, transabdominal and pelvic ultrasound, Eve is designed to meet the training needs of healthcare professionals who wish to practise ultrasound in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care.
Eve can also be expanded to include a comprehensive education in cardiac anatomy and echocardiography through the addition of the Heartworks product.
(Photo credit to Mentone-Educational)
Biosphera is a private company based in Brazil; they make advanced software programmes to demonstrate the internal anatomy of the selected species. As well as human anatomy, they also have a range of animal programmes to choose from e.g. equine and rat. This software is available in a desktop or smartphone option, and allows for the species internal systems to be viewed and manipulated layer by layer or simultaneously with other layers at high detail. Individual structures can be removed from the system or can be highlighted and named - just to mention a few of its features!
The University of Otago could use software like Biosphera to replace their current animal dissection exercises that they use to teach students about anatomy, and this would greatly add to student learning by teaching them about the relevant species i.e learning about human anatomy for going into a human relevant field, rather than basing their knowledge of anatomy on the wrong species, like a rat.
(3D Dog Anatomy Software by Biosphera.org)
Countless teaching methods exist that should replace the use of animals in education and more are being created every day. Did you know the University of Otago still uses animals for dissection exercises, even when there are better teaching methods available? Click here to see more about the current use of animals at the University of Otago.