Colorado-Boulder to Use Computer Simulations as an Alternative for Classroom Science Experiments?


The University of Colorado-Boulder (CU) is currently reviewing its methods of using live animals in undergraduate classroom science experiments after animal rights group- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a complaint against the university last fall.

PETA described the experiments as cruel and questioned the university's ethics on conducting live animal experiments.

 "It is an important goal to be able to teach our young people how to be the doctors and researchers of the future," CU spokesperson Bronson Hilliard said. "We would disagree that it is unethical. We try to use that for strict and narrow instructional purposes," Hilliard said. "It's not a wide-spread use on the campus and again the animals are very humanely treated."

The group accused the University of involving in unethical animal testing practices.

"It is absolutely not ethical to use an animal when it is completely pointless and orally unnecessary," Jessica Sandler with PETA said. "If 98 percent of medical schools can train doctors without using animals then surely CU Boulder can teach undergraduates without tormenting animals.

 According to PETA officials, the university conducted live experiments on cats which were not appropriately anesthetised. The cats woke up during experiments, resulting in numerous federal complaints. Other experiments involving fishes, rats and frogs have also garnered sharp criticism.

The university said that regardless of PETA's accusations, authorities have decided to conduct a self-evaluation.

"The goal of that is too look at how we use animals in teaching undergraduate lab courses and to make some determination about whether we need keep doing that or do something different," Hilliard said. "If we can find alternatives, using computer simulations and other methods, it won't be that big if a deal."

The CU's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) will decide the use of live animals for teaching, testing and research and whether computer simulations can replace the use of live vertebrates in some cases.

The university officials have also asked the chairs of departments and faculty members on curriculum committees to submit a report by the end of July that details why these animals are used in classrooms and why suggested alternatives cannot meet the teaching objectives.

The IACUC will then make recommendation to curriculum committees. If changes are approved, it will be officially implemented starting spring 2014 semester.

PETA said that if the university agrees to use computer simulations instead of live animals, it would pay for the software. Justin Goodman, director of laboratory investigations at PETA, said that computer simulations will also save the university money by cutting down animal purchase and maintenance costs.

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