Catherine Mallia, Patricia Logan and Rafael Freire
The replacement, reduction and refinement of animal use in education is part of the regulatory legislation in Australia, and requires the use of alternatives to animals where appropriate. The aims of this study were: a) to explore the extent of the replacement of animals when teaching life sciences to Australian undergraduate students; b) to understand which alternative models were being used, and the learning objectives covered; and c) to gain some insight into the circumstances facilitating the use of alternatives to animals in education. An anonymous online survey, consisting of open and closed questions, was conducted among faculty members that used either animal or alternative models in their teaching. A total of 27 faculty members participated, from eight universities. Human anatomy and physiology had the highest number of survey participants who had replaced animals entirely with alternative models. These subjects also had the highest number of participants that were using animal models. According to the participants, most learning objectives were met effectively by both types of model. Participants who only used alternatives were influenced by ethical considerations significantly more than those who used animal models and alternatives. We concluded that, while some participants have replaced animals successfully, others in the same field are still employing them, and that there appears to be a range of barriers to the wider adoption of alternatives to animal use.