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India To Cut Out Animal Dissection 145

ananyo writes "Squeamish science students in India might not have to grapple with cutting up rats or frogs for much longer. The University Grants Commission (UGC), the national body in New Delhi that funds and governs Indian universities, announced new rules earlier this month that would phase out almost all animal dissection and replace it with teaching using computer simulations and models."
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India To Cut Out Animal Dissection

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:25PM (#38436722)

    Bad enough my doctor's English is for shit, now the last words I get to hear before the anesthesia kicks in is "What the hell is THAT?!?" in a thick accent.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:30PM (#38436792)

      Bad enough my doctor's English is for shit, now the last words I get to hear before the anesthesia kicks in is "What the hell is THAT?!?" in a thick accent.

      If you have rat or frog organs in you, you might have bigger problems to worry about.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        Rat and frog organs are homologous with human organs, that's why it's so easy to remember different animals' anatomies ones you've learned one. (Though there are quirks, like a horse's hooves bein homologous to middle fingernails...)

        Of course, anti-evolution fanatics try to keep such convenient shortcuts from being learned because it infringes on their "faith".

        • Of course, anti-evolution fanatics try to keep such convenient shortcuts from being learned because it infringes on their "faith".

          Bet you ten bucks that you can't actually come up with a reference to a time that happened.

    • If he's asking that while you're still conscious you're already in trouble...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    IMHO, it's no substitution for the technical skill involved in dissections. Do these programs account for the variability in tissues among species? I know that birds have thinner skin than mammals, for example.

    • Well the more important part is human disection. Can a doctor still practice on a cadaver?
      • I would hope so, but even then it'll be quite a leap for a med student who has only ever practiced on simulations to go straight to real cutting on a human cadaver; however, I suppose those who have the knack for it will pick it up quickly, and all others probably shouldn't be doctors, anyway.
    • Not every "science student" needs surgical skills.

      And for those who will be surgeons, who knows but that they will soon be operating remotely using a 3-d graphical user interface based on these very models?

      • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @06:53PM (#38441574) Homepage Journal

        Every science student, and certainly every biology student, needs to dissect animals. They should do it in high school. Or sooner.

        One of the main skills of a scientist is looking at nature. It's not the same as reading about it in a book (which is what you get in a computer). The lesson is that you're looking at the actual real world. Science teaches you how to look at the real world.

        If your book says it should be one way, and your specimen is another way, then your book has a lot of explaining to do.

        The other thing is you get a lot of "Oh, now I understand" moments.

        For example, I dissected a cow's eye (a popular lab). The thing that impressed me about it was how thin the retina was -- it looked like an oil slick. Now I can appreciate how difficult it is to do retinal surgery, and I can appreciate the tricks eye surgeons figured to be able to do it. I read a lot of anatomy books (Netter has great drawings of the eye) but real life was different.

        I can't explain how it was different. You'll just have to dissect an eye and see for yourself.

  • Well, let's ask (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot.uberm00@net> on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:30PM (#38436794) Homepage Journal

    Biologists: Have computer simulations and models advanced to a point where they can replace physical cadavers for studies and training?

    • More interetingly, are computer models squishy? This is actually training for general biology - the med-students still get to practice on cadavers - but looking at diagrams doesn't give the same feel for anatomy as something more tactile. It all looks so clean on the drawings.
    • by zill ( 1690130 )
      It's been done [] more than 40 years ago.
    • Real vs. Virtual (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @02:35PM (#38437826)

      Speaking as a medical school student, I'd say it depends on what you want to study and train the student to do afterwards.

      If you are teaching the student using virtual methods, and then measure the student's performance using models and drawings afterwards -- you will probably find that the student's performance is actually higher than that of using real-life cadavers (not surprisingly, because you are training in the same manner as you are testing).

      Their ability to regurgitate names for everything everything will probably be better, too. Because all the pieces are nice and discrete. Easy to memorize.

      Now, real world bodies are different. In a preserved cadaver, everything is rendered in a few shades of brown/yellow/gray that blur together, (one exception: the gallbladder is a beautiful shade of green). If dissecting something not preserved and alive (or recently alive), smear red over everything (That's how you get stories about surgeons leaving sponges and stuff in bodies. Stuff ends up looking like red blobs sitting among a collection of red blobs).

      It's very difficult to learn from a cadaver; A bunch of different structures in the book might just look like one big chunk in the body (cause maybe they're all enveloped and held together by connective tissue). Unlike a piece of designed equipment that needed to be assembled, everything space is stuffed and crammed with something or another, because it probably grew there. Except when it didn't grow there, it grew somewhere else and migrated. And because it was grown and not made, often it's not quite the shape or location that the book says.

      As a result, learning to navigate around a body and recognize it's components is a special skill that goes far beyond memorizing those components themselves. There's a lot of reasoning and tracing connections and relationships. You don't just learn things from a cadaver, you learn skills.

      • You make an excellent point. For those who have not studied anatomy the reality is that each animal or human is not exactly the same anatomically. In some cases one may find citus inversus in which all the internal organs are inverted (left to right or visa versa. In some cases the inversion is only partial. Likewise cancers and other diseases can greatly distort the size, position, and coloration of internal organs. To complicate matters further, many animals, including humans do not have all their b

    • No.

      I have a PhD in Zoology / Evolutionary Biology. I spent years in grad school teaching an undergrad-level comparative vertebrate anatomy lab and a developmental bio lab. I work with MDs and PhDs now in a neuroscience lab. None of the models we have heard of or have tried are in any way a suitable replacement for actual dissections. The times I have tried to teach anatomy with models or predissected specimens... well, let's just say that I wouldn't be willing at this point to take on a PhD student who hadn

    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      Unless things have advanced rapidly since four years ago when I was doing my animal physiology class, the answer is "no".

      Our school had the option to do dissections digitally if you had a good reason. Watching people do it I can say that it was terribly useless. There's a big difference between the neatness of a digital model and the realities of fluids and membranes and the huge physical variations shown across different individual aninals.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      Biologists: Have computer simulations and models advanced to a point where they can replace physical cadavers for studies and training?

      No. Never will, either.

    • That question may be about a moot point. Ask any honest medical researcher and they will tell you that Phase 1 Human trials are dangerous. Those are first human trials.

      Animals aren't people, testing on animals doesn't tell you what will happen when you try the treatment on people.

    • Biologists: Have computer simulations and models advanced to a point where they can replace physical cadavers for studies and training?

      If it were a computer on the operating table instead of a human body, I'd say yes.

      Obviously that's not the case, and we likely know what the answer will be from the Biologist now or 50 years from now, regardless of the technology now or then. Porsche has a point with their claim that there is no substitute.

    • Farnsworth: Well, as a man enters his 18th decade, he thinks back on the mistakes he's made in life.
      Amy: Like the heaps of dead monkeys?
      Farnsworth: Science cannot move forward without heaps!

    • I get the impression that human cadavers are still ok to dissect.

    • No. None of the models or simulations we've looked at capture the complexity or even the essence of what we're trying to teach in Anatomy & Physiology. And when it comes to practice of things like surgery, the answer becomes even more emphatic. And my area is Wildlife, where dead bodies are not in short supply. I've heard (And hearsay is the best evidence) the issue is larger in human work, where you have fewer human cadavers to practice on before you can move on to practising surgery on pigs. Not that
  • by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:32PM (#38436824) Homepage Journal
    Automobile students, squeamish about getting grease on their fingers, are clamoring to have their hands-on experience replaced by computer simulations. Heaven help us when the airplane industry does the same.
    • Automobile students, squeamish about getting grease on their fingers, are clamoring to have their hands-on experience replaced by computer simulations. Heaven help us when the airplane industry does the same.

      I know right? Designing airplanes and training pilots using computer simulations is unthinkable.

      • You do know that they still make physical mockups of the airplane designs and put them in actual wind tunnels before they start mass producing them. right? And a pilot needs a certain amount of actual flight time before they are given a pilots license.
      • by Desler ( 1608317 )

        No, but would you any pilot who only trained via simulation?

      • I think you confuse the issues involved. No one is claiming that computer simulations are not useful. However, one must understand that they are useful precisely because they are constructed from specially made parts of a predictable shape, size, and composition. Organisms are not so constructed as we derive our organization from DNA sequences that can and do actually vary from individual to individual. Would you trust a finite element analysis if cells of the equation were actually rubber as opposed t

        • Honestly I think a number of the comments here genuinely were attempting to claim that computer simulations are not useful.

          For that matter, is a sudden unexpected variation that only physical models can provide really that useful when trying to teach a novice student basic anatomy?
    • Re:Mechanics next (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:42PM (#38436940) Journal

      Not every "automobile student" wants to make a living as a greasemonkey. I took automotive classes just because I wanted to understand how they worked.

      My favorite part turned out to be physics and chemistry, and today I'm an engineer with little need for coveralls or gojo.

      • Fine for theory of operation so well and good, but without considerable tactile experience one cannot be an effective "mechanic".

        Much of this is because you manipulate parts you cannot see and must rely on "feel" to properly assemble.

      • You sound like my brother, he's a Mechanical Engineer and a Material Sciences Engineer, but he can't change a spare tire in an emergency to save his life.

      • by j-pimp ( 177072 )

        I don't know about you, but I think I'm a better programmer because I can build a PC, and used to be a syadmin.

        I can't say that knowing how to make my own cat-5 directly makes me a better coder. However, I know how to make software that sysadmins don't hate, and documentation they can read.

        I would think if a mechanical engineer actually serviced a few cars, he or she would be more likely to design a car a mechanical wouldn't mind maintaining then one who only did mechanical simulations.

    • Make vehicles who maintenance doesn't REQUIRE considerable hands-on manipulation of objects and sims would work, but at that point there's near-zero need for mechanics.

      Even in primitive aircraft, the aircrew actuated controls "remotely" by linkage and cable.

      Mechanics are "closer" to the equipment components than operators.

  • ... will give their virtual doctors virtual experience to cure virtual diseases and preform virtual operations.

    Hope no one gets a non-virtual disease or has some strange organ issue that doesn't fit the models...

  • The people from India probably have better insight but I bet this stems from their religion that reveres life, Eating meat is a Vice - A huge percentage are vegetarian etc.
    • Religion? Eating meat? Utter nonsense. I know this is Slashdot and no one RTFA, but if you have a claim, you can quickly look it up using the Ctrl-F supercombo key.

      India is following a global trend to phase out animal dissection, or to make it voluntary, despite opposition from scientists who say that the experience is impossible to replicate with models.

      India’s ban comes after pressure from animal-rights groups such as the Indian arm of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), based
  • If you're ever going to be a surgeon, there's no replacing dissection. Sorry. They are living on some cloud nine. This is a big snafu in the making. My bet is that the people who made this decision were not practicing surgeons, or perhaps they were some very poor ones better fit for a bureaucratic job rather than an OR job.

    • Re:The fuck? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dell623 ( 2021586 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:51PM (#38437098)

      Who said anything about surgeons, where on earth did you get that from??

      If you RTFA you'll see no mention of medical schools. I would hope my surgeon has more experience than having dissected a rat, but that's besides the point.

      Thedecision is worrying because it applies to university science students in biology, zoology etc., who should definitely not be squeamish about dissections. However, it has nothing to do with doctors or surgeons or medical schools.

    • Surgeons can practice on their cadavers in med school to their heart's content. As a science student who will never need to dissect a frog in real life, I'm real glad I wasn't responsible for the torture and murder of a sentient living creature.
      • As someone who hates mosquitoes, I'm going to keep cruelly murdering them as long as I'm capable of doing that. And I'm going to torture PETA members the very moment they're declared to be less important than animals, like they consider themselves to be.

        • Slapping a mosquito to death is quite merciful. If however, you torture them, pull their legs off etc, you're either a psychopath or have no conception of the pain you're deliberately delivering to another creature.
      • Surgeons can practice on their cadavers in med school to their heart's content. As a science student who will never need to dissect a frog in real life, I'm real glad I wasn't responsible for the torture and murder of a sentient living creature.

        Do students actually perform vivisection then? I assumed the dissection was of dead animals.

  • by laughing rabbit ( 216615 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:39PM (#38436908) to weed out the squeamish.

    Where will that leave us? A bunch of queasy folks standing around waiting for someone with a stronger disposition to step up?

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      We're talking about general science training here, not medical school. There are plenty of biology jobs that don't involve cutting up cadavers, so there's no pressing need to "weed out the squeamish". Someone working on bioinformatics is probably better served by early familiarity with computer modeling.

      • I wasn't thinking about only med students, I was thinking about having a well rounded understanding about what life is and what the living are.
        • I wasn't thinking about only med students, I was thinking about having a well rounded understanding about what life is and what the living are.

          You don't need to kill an elephant or blue whale yourself and grub around in its internals to have a well rounded undersanding of how it works, any more than you need to be an astronaut to understand astronomy.

          People who are training to be surgeons are a different matter entirely, they certainly need hands on experience but it would have to be with dead human beings.

      • "Someone working on bioinformatics is probably better served by early familiarity with computer modeling."

        It is precisely thinking like this that leads to so many absolutely useless computer models. They simply have no way of beginning to comprehend the very real and most important element in all of biology, natural variation.

  • Stop and think (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dward90 ( 1813520 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:42PM (#38436942)

    Please, before responding with an idiotic "But how will my doctor know what they are doing?!?!", think about this for more than 2 seconds. The vast majority of students in undergraduate biology classes will never in their lives have to cut open and dissect another animal of any kind, and the knowledge they gain from it could easily be gained by simulation. For the very small minority of students who will require surgical or dissection skills (doctors at vets), there is ample time to get them that specialized experience in their respective graduate programs. This is a good change to focus resources where they will be the most useful.

    • The other point that people are missing is that dissecting an aged, formaldehyde soaked human body is NOT the primary source of anatomical training for surgeons. Gross Anatomy (that's what it's called) is just another first year medical student course done the same way it's always been because it's been done the same way since the 18th century. Further it is a rite of passage (I had to fry my brain with formaldehyde, so do you). Third, anatomy is one of those core courses in Medicine since humans tend to

      • "A good video of a surgical procedure is much more realistic",

        except when someone's life depends on how you yield the scalpel and the organs of the patient on the operating table don't look anything like those in the video. That kind of training must start much earlier than a few years of medical school, since understanding anatomical variation is the key. Videos, models, and simulations simply don't cover enough variation and understanding in biology comes from understanding variation.

        I would rather see

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But then they aren't learning 'biology'...they're playing a computer game. Can you really be said to have learned chemisrry without mixing chemicals? Or physics without testing conservation of momentum? There is a significant disconnect between 'knowing' and 'understanding' that only comes from getting your hands dirty, so to speak. It's the difference between learning 'what' scientists have learned about the world, and 'how' scientists actually go about finding the order within the chaos that is the re

    • This is a good change to focus resources where they will be the most useful.

      If there was a shortage of those resources, you'd have a point. Since there isn't, you're just handwaving buzzwords around.

      • There aren't a shortage of animals to dissect, I'll give you that. There is, however, a shortage of time and money. Lab quality preserved animals are not cheap, and doing a dissection lab takes a lot more time and effort from professors and their assistants than alternatives.

        • For those ultimately bound for medical or veterinary school, they are a lot cheaper than human cadavers.

        • Are you kidding me? Lab quality animals are cheap compared to the site licenses for good software to do the same. Never mind you lose a crapton of the detail. Site licenses can run into the five plus digits, easily, depending on enrolment. Plus you need computers to run them all on, and people to support those computers (granted, that's usually dumped onto IT's workload without ever giving them more pay or new workers). And if enrollment is high enough, as it is in many A&P courses (since pre-med, pre-v
        • High quality software isn't cheap either, not to mention the incomparable joy of re-buying it every couple of years as the underlying hardware and OS changes. (Not to mention that a quick google finds that preserved rats in small quantities cost around $9-20.00, so they aren't that expensive.) Also, in an educational setting (unless you just toss 'em the assignment and walk away), you still have a very high investment of time and effort from professors and assistants.

          So I can't see any real gains in time o

    • Please, before responding with an idiotic "But how will my doctor know what they are doing?!?!", think about this for more than 2 seconds

      Let me use an analogy suitable for Slashdot.

      You can learn a lot of about female anatomy from pictures, descriptions, and virtual models. And I'm sure many on this site have studied just materials at great length.

      However, such materials are likely to leave you with misconceptions and an incomplete set of knowledge. A real specimen provides features such as 3D viewing and tactile feedback -- all these things will teach you things you would otherwise might not understand (Protip: They do not feel like bags o

  • I find it amazing that on Slashdot of all places so many people are questioning the very premise of computer simulated training and whether it's a viable analogue of the physical world.
    • Perhaps that is because you don't have sufficient appreciation of just how much variation actually exists in the natural world. Its the variation that is of special importance, not where the labels are place or what color is used in the simulation. For biologists the simulations must take into account variation as it is observed for the results of simulations to be taken as realistic and informative. This is not to say biologists are heavy users of computer simulations of all kinds, which do provide a th

  • by Saishuuheiki ( 1657565 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @01:45PM (#38437008)

    While I do believe that some careers should probably dissect animals (surgeons, veterinarians) I don't see the point in requiring this for everyone. I am just fine with my pharmacist not having cut open dead animals.

    • High school doesn't teach you a profession, it just shows you all the things you can learn and do. It's better for a student to realize they can't stand dissection in high school than in medical school when they have already chosen to be a doctor.

      • Certainly, most patients undergoing any kind of surgical procedure have the right to expect sufficient proficiency in dissection. Dissection skills requires more than a year or two of training in medical school to be proficient. However, its not just surgery at issue here. Those involved in drug trials where animal testing may need to know precisely how, when and were to inject a compound into an animal. Studies generally assume that this is done properly. It could make a big difference if a drug were i

  • This is about research. The less experience biology students have in dissecting animals, the more problems they'll have during their PhD and the more problems biotechs and phara companies will have in getting the skills they need to do proper animal experiments and trials with new therapies. So this is a bad move IMO.
    • You seem to ignore the huge bridge between high school and PhD. There is plenty of time in between for students to learn that stuff.

      There is no point in forcing high schoolers to learn how to dissect an animal if very few will be doctors and vets. IMHO, all the animals spared of useless procedures are well worth it.
  • Back in my day, we had to dissect each other while running uphill to campus in ten feet of snow and manage to sew ourselves back up before roll call. Of course, back then you could buy bread for a nickel and still have five cents left over for malt shakes, and dancing was all proper-like, none of this "flopping" or "dunking" you kids do now, and when I got back from the war I... *snore*
  • [] and others could eliminate the first few years of hacking up a body. But in the end, the only way to learn what it looks like is on a cadaver.
  • the fuckers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by perryizgr8 ( 1370173 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @02:18PM (#38437542)

    i am an indian and i presently attend college. at school, when i was in 8th class, i was extremely eager to go to 9th class because they had all sorts of frog and cockroach dissection and i was very interested. the fuckers (idiotic peta type people) abolished dissection in middle/high school from that very year :( i never got my chance to do interesting dissections and lost all interest in biology. now i am studying electronics :(
    looks like they will make even medical school bland and uninteresting.

  • by myc ( 105406 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2011 @02:22PM (#38437604)

    Most students who take an anatomy class at the level that requires animal dissection fall into two categories: those who are interested in an allied health profession (e.g., nursing, physical therapy) and those who are either interested in becoming professional biologists or medical doctors. I think you could make a pretty good case that in both cases, real dissections are an essential part of the students' training. Your average college student is not masochistic enough to take what is typically a course much tougher than a garden variety general education class. I don't know how the education system works in India, but I think the vast majority of biology departments in the US would not be willing to use models exclusive of real dissection. That being said, we do use models to supplement instruction, but these are physical models, not computer-based. Unless 3D displays become radically better and give tactile feedback, I don't see computer dissecting simulations displacing physical models either.

    • This is not correct...I am a Computer Science major, and will be spending my time dissecting the innards of computer servers, not animals. Yet, for my science requirement, I had to do two biology classes - and I've had to dissect both a pig and a frog in one of the labs. This is not long in the past, it was earlier this year, here in the USA. In addition, our labs are rather rushed - the first half is a mini-lecture, and then we have to rush to dissect the animal in the last half, so there's very little

      • "All I really learned is when I cut an animal open, I do it a little too hard with the knive and mess up the specimen a little since the lab is rushed. How does this help my knowledge of science? "

        I think you miss the point of the class, which is for students to be trained to be useful to society and not for the class to be useful to you, just because you screw up. You can think of the class dissection a success as it prevented someone, who seems to have no future as a biologist or especially a surgeon or

        • I'm pretty sure the university is paid to be useful to the student. The student is paid to be useful to society when they get a job.

          Also you're blaming them for "screwing up" by not magically deriving useful knowledge from a rushed and poorly run exercise? By not having a natural talent for it rather than expecting to actually be taught something of value?

          The dissection for that matter did nothing to prevent someone from becoming a biologist or surgeon as you claim. They didn't throw up their hands an
  • It seems like other countries are always advancing technologically and socially ahead of the U.S. because conservatives and corporate America hare holding us behind.

    Animals aren't people. Animal testing doesn't work. Ask any medical researcher about Phase 1 trials, the first human trials for a new treatment after animal testing.

    Moving toward computer modeling is progress for both people and animals.

    Since breeding and experimenting on lab animals is big business, the U.S. as with many things will hold onto

    • If its becoming last, perhaps its because many seem more eager to adopt new ideas only if they fit in with their preconceived ideology rather than accepting reality as it is in all its messy variation and diversity. People are animals and animal testing not only works, much of modern biology, physiology and medicine absolutely depend on it. Do you have any earthly idea what fatality rates might look like for Phase I trials, if animal testing had not preceded it?

      Computer models that have no measure of natu

  • So does this mean the Indians have developed holographic technology? :P

    Where does the line start for buying those devices that emit photons and forcefields? It'll sure be fun to cut up holographic frogs!

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