Replacing Animal Use in Physiology and Pharmacology Teaching in Selected Universities in Eastern Europe — Charting a Way Forward
David G. Dewhurst and Zvezdana Z. Kojic
The aims of this study were to explore the use of animals in teaching and the implementation of innovative technology-based teaching practices across a small sample of universities in Eastern Europe. The research methods used were a questionnaire circulated four weeks before a workshop took place (in October 2009, in Belgrade, Serbia), as well as focused, face-to-face group discussions, led by one of the authors during the workshop. Twenty-two faculty (physiologists and pharmacologists), from 13 Eastern European countries, attended the meeting. Fourteen of the eighteen schools represented at the workshop were making use of animals, in some instances in quite large numbers, for their teaching. For example, a single department at a Romanian university used over 250 animals per annum, and at least 1130 animals were used, per annum, across all of the institutions. The species used in largest numbers were the rat (34%), frog/toad (29%), mouse (22%), rabbit (10%), guinea-pig (4%) and dog (1%). None of the universities sampled had implemented institution-wide virtual learning environments (VLEs), although there were isolated instances of local use of VLEs. There was relatively little current use of technology-based teaching and learning resources, but there was considerable enthusiasm to modernise teaching and to introduce innovative learning and teaching methods. The major perceived barrier to the introduction of replacement alternatives was the lack of versions in local languages. There was a consensus view that developing local language exemplars and evaluating their usefulness was likely to have the greatest impact on animal use, at least in the short-term.