The importance of teaching about animal reseach in schools
In today’s staff blog post, Education Project Officer Stuart Rogers outlines the importance of teaching about animal research in schools.
Animal Research remains a controversial issue in both modern media and politics. Although around 80% of the British public accept and support the humane use of animals in medical research there is a small minority that demonstrate strong opposition catalysed by the numerous animal rights organisations active in the UK.
A big problem is that most of this opposition to animal research is based on misconceptions and misinformation. The Ipsos-MORI poll conducted in 2012 revealed that around two thirds people believe that animals can still be used in the UK for cosmetic testing despite this being banned in 1998.
If we as a modern cultured society are going to have a reasoned and rational debate on the use of animals in medical research it is vital that we provide the public with the relevant information to make an informed decision on the issue.
We believe presenting the information surrounding the issue to school pupils in a neutral manner is the best way to go about this. I have been involved in the Education Programme for Understanding Animal Research for a year and have had experience in delivering lessons to a range of year groups and also training people involved in the world of animal research (lab techs and researchers) to go out and deliver lessons to pupils.
Our sessions last around 1 hour and include some historical case studies of the benefits of animal research, how animals are used in medical research today, animal welfare and the session is finished with a Q and A. We also include a practical component where pupils get to dress up as a lab technician and perform a blood draw on Jasper, our prosthetic rat.
UAR demonstrating with a prosthetic rat during a school visit. Credit: Brilliant Images
Giving students a platform to ask questions about this topic and think through ethnical issues surrounding animal research carries enormous learning value for both the students and the animal research professional.
The students have the opportunity to ask a real professional involved in the industry about their day to day work and any other questions they may have and the speakers gain confidence in discussing their field of work openly which is an integral factor in industry transparency.
When educating pupils about a contested issue it is both important and responsible to expose them to both conflicting perspectives, so animal rights organisation have the right to explain their side of the story. These organisations do have education programmes and deliver school talks across the country. However it should be noted that these organisations have a direct vested interest in steering individuals against the use of animals for medical research as they will be able to harvest donations from their supporters and thereby generate revenue.
So organisations that are opposed to animal research should be allowed to present their side of the debate. However animal rights groups are notorious for misrepresenting facts and employing pseudoscience to muster people to their cause. This is very unethical in an educational setting. Everyone should have the opportunity to make up their own mind about the use of animals in medical research; it’s my job to make sure that this decision is based on the facts, not fiction.