Use of Animals in Education

Approved by SSR Board of Directors, July 2000
The Society for the Study of Reproduction affirms the essential contribution of animals in research and education aimed at improving the health and well-being of both humans and animals. The role of animals remains critical in understanding the fundamental processes of life and in developing treatments for injury and disease. SSR believes that educational objectives are best met when teaching focuses on animals as living, sentient creatures, emphasizing their behavior, life history, and relationships with their environment. SSR considers that the use of animals in education is a privilege, which imposes a major responsibility on educators to provide for their proper care and humane treatment.

For pre-college biology education, SSR deems that the educational value of using living animals is not sufficient to justify major manipulations of their behavior or environment or any procedures that cause pain, distress, or discomfort. At this level, activities involving live animals should be limited to supervised observations of behavior, growth, and development of domestic mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates, and their routine care. Educators proposing to involve animals in the classroom or laboratory at this or any level should be familiar with and inform their students of basic animal care and use laws and guidelines with a brief explanation of their value. SSR supports the use of biological specimens for anatomical or physiological study, provided their procurement and use are in strict compliance with federal legislation, guidelines and policies of the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Agriculture, and other such agencies as may be appropriate.

SSR recognizes that the use of live animals in carefully designed and properly monitored laboratory exercises is an indispensable part of training in certain programs of higher education. Knowledge, experience, and insights gained through the responsible use of live animals in the classroom and laboratory are unique, invaluable, and irreplaceable elements of a quality education in many basic and clinical disciplines.

In all situations where animal use is envisioned, SSR advocates both the careful consideration of alternatives and the highest standards of husbandry and care when animals must be used. In considering alternatives in the design of educational experiences involving animals, SSR advocates principles embodied by the three R’s (replacement, reduction, and refinement). Therefore, educators should consider alternative methods that might serve as effective replacements of sentient animal models, adopt practices that will reduce the number of animals needed for effective educational experiences, and refine techniques in order to minimize or eliminate pain, distress, or discomfort in animals that must be used. This includes the judicious use of sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia when appropriate. At institutions of higher education, it is expected that all procedures involving vertebrate animal use will be reviewed and approved by an appropriately appointed institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) and that provision will be made for the training of all personnel involved in the care and use of animals.

Back to top