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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Technological Advances that Enhance Teaching Using Animals, and the Application of the Three Rs

Alexander S. Davies

The inventions that have progressively contributed to education have never offered opportunities as vast as in the digital era, even though this is still scarcely 25 years old. In this time, digital handling of data led first to text processing, then to bitmap and vector graphics, and now, to digital sound and movies. As these advanced, the storage methods became larger, faster, easier and cheaper. The advancement of technology has been so rapid that the standard of most teaching aids now available is well below what can currently be achieved. We are confronted with an unprecedented opportunity for applying the principles of reduction, refinement and replacement of animals in education. Not only are the visual teaching aids improved by digitising, but all aspects of their development, including the ease, higher speed, and low cost of creation, editing, copying, distribution and access, are improved, as well. Several examples will be given, including access to interactive panoramic movies, animated sequences to explain difficult concepts, on-line tutorials and image databases using digital photography, radiography and other diagnostic methods, as well as the production of desktop movies. The speed of technical advance brings its own problems, but the challenges and possibilities for developing viable alternatives to the use of animals in teaching are vast.