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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Psychological Effects on Students of Using Animals in Ways that They See as Ethically, Morally or Religiously Wrong

Theodora Capaldo

Studies indicate that more students are opposing the use of invasive procedures on animals. When students are forced to use animals in ways that they view as harmful, painful, stressful or lethal to the animals, several reactions may occur. Such students may suffer psychological trauma as the result of seeing themselves or others engaged in behaviour that they find ethically objectionable. Their cognitive abilities may become impaired, resulting in less learning. They may withdraw and lose interest in science when not given the option to conscientiously object. Students — even those who believe they are willing participants — can become desensitised and may develop a utilitarian view of animals, thereby diminishing their capacity for compassion and ethical decision-making. Qualified, compassionate people — especially women — often decide to end their career in science rather than compromise their values. This loss contributes to the gender gap in science and to individuals feeling disappointed and derailed in their career aspirations. The psychological consequences to individuals combined with social, environmental, educational and scientific consequences present a compelling argument for the 100% replacement of the harmful use of animals in education.