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Animal rights group dicusses MSU's practices

November 11, 2009

A national organization is calling on MSU officials to consider alternatives to how the university teaches its veterinary students.

Representatives from Animalearn, a division of the nonprofit animal advocacy and educational organization American Anti-Vivisection Society, questioned MSU’s past practices of purchasing live animals from Class B animal dealers at a lecture Wednesday, but said the university is making progress. Students Promoting Animal Rights, or SPAR, hosted the event.

The group released a report in April detailing its analysis of public universities in 24 selected states based on information it received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

A Class A animal dealer breeds animals, such as dogs, for a specific purpose. A Class B dealer can acquire animals from a variety sources, such as animal shelters or pounds, and sell them for educational purposes, Animalearn Director Laura Ducceschi said.

“A positive trend at MSU is that its purchases from Class B dealers appears to have ceased after 2006,” Ducceschi said.

College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Christopher Brown said officials have not purchased animals from a Class B dealer in about three years.

Students are offered alternatives to live surgeries and as technology improves, he believes MSU will be able to continue reducing the number of live dogs it purchases for educational purposes. Brown said he does not know the number of live dogs used in the college this year.

“For surgery and other related classes, we do offer an alternative for students who do not want to take part in the live classes and that involves taking some extra time in the clinic to gain those skills in the clinic which they would have picked up in the laboratory had they taken the classes,” Brown said. “In the last 20 years, we have gradually reduced the number of live animals used and adopted new technology.”

The lecture represented SPAR’s attempt to ask university officials to consider alternatives to the use of live animals for educational purposes, SPAR President Mitch Goldsmith said.

“We wanted to have the folks report their report and make that call one more time to the university to take these alternatives seriously,” Goldsmith said.

“We (were) hoping to sort of educate people in the community about the practices of the university in regards to the use of animals on campus and to hopefully get this topic the attention that it deserves.”

Students in the College of Veterinary Medicine use a majority of the animals in terminal surgeries — surgeries where the animal is not revived after anesthesia — Brown said.

“Many of the animals would have been scheduled to be euthanized had they not come here,” Brown said. “The animals are not recovered from euthanasia (after the procedures are finished).”

Arts and humanities junior Megan Spencer said although she is not a veterinary medicine student, she is concerned about the welfare of animals and universities’ dependence on live animals for teaching tools.

“I think the issue of animal rights, especially in this context, is really important and gets overlooked a lot,” Spencer said. “The arguments against (using live animals in education) need to get more well known.”

Nicholas Barbu, a second-year veterinary medicine student, said he came to Wednesday’s event to voice his concern about the use of alternatives in the clinics.

“I feel like with using alternatives, you miss out on a lot of important clinical skills you will not get otherwise,”
Barbu said.


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