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Animals 2014, 4(1), 16-34; doi:10.3390/ani4010016

Conscientious Objection to Harmful Animal Use within Veterinary and Other Biomedical Education

Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 334, Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies
Received: 4 November 2013 / Revised: 13 January 2014 / Accepted: 13 January 2014 / Published: 21 January 2014
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Simple Summary: Classes in which animals are harmed are controversial within veterinary and other life and health sciences courses. Increasingly, students object to the harmful use of animals, and request humane teaching alternatives. Such cases can raise important animal welfare, legal and administrative concerns for universities. Several have implemented formal policies to guide their responses, maximising the likelihood of optimal and consistent outcomes. This paper reviews the development of these conscientious objection policies within Australian veterinary schools, and examines their underlying legal foundations. It concludes with recommendations for other universities considering how to respond to such cases.

Abstract

Laboratory classes in which animals are seriously harmed or killed, or which use cadavers or body parts from ethically debatable sources, are controversial within veterinary and other biomedical curricula. Along with the development of more humane teaching methods, this has increasingly led to objections to participation in harmful animal use. Such cases raise a host of issues of importance to universities, including those pertaining to curricular design and course accreditation, and compliance with applicable animal welfare and antidiscrimination legislation. Accordingly, after detailed investigation, some universities have implemented formal policies to guide faculty responses to such cases, and to ensure that decisions are consistent and defensible from legal and other policy perspectives. However, many other institutions have not yet done so, instead dealing with such cases on an ad hoc basis as they arise. Among other undesirable outcomes this can lead to insufficient student and faculty preparation, suboptimal and inconsistent responses, and greater likelihood of legal challenge. Accordingly, this paper provides pertinent information about the evolution of conscientious objection policies within Australian veterinary schools, and about the jurisprudential bases for conscientious objection within Australia and the USA. It concludes with recommendations for the development and implementation of policy within this arena.
Keywords: veterinary education; veterinary curriculum; conscientious objection; humane teaching methods; 3Rs veterinary education; veterinary curriculum; conscientious objection; humane teaching methods; 3Rs
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Knight, A. Conscientious Objection to Harmful Animal Use within Veterinary and Other Biomedical Education. Animals 2014, 4, 16-34.

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