Animal use for scientific advancements is a controversial subject. Many people are against animal testing but still reap the benefits of these medical advancements every day, which makes for a long winded ethical discussion. There will always be debate over those frog dissections in high school and animal testing for cosmetics. As a veterinarian whose main goal is to save animal lives it can be an emotional challenge to hurt one animal even though the justification is that you will be able to help other animals in the future.
When I was in school, we did two lethal surgeries on farm animals. Otherwise procedures were practiced on in-house lab animals or shelter animals that would later be adopted. Talking with older veterinarians, their practice animals had it much worse. One of my previous bosses told me about the surgery dogs at his veterinary school. They would perform surgeries on the dogs every couple of weeks throughout the semester only to euthanize the dogs at the end of the semester. Most schools have drastically reduced surgical hands on training for ethical reasons.
Interestingly, one of the most common complaints I hear from practice owners is that their new associates are completely lacking in technical skills. New graduates don't feel comfortable in surgery because they haven't had the intensive training that the "old school" crew received.
I'm not trying to start a debate on animal rights issues, but, it gives me great joy to hear about technological advancements that allow veterinary students to practice the skills that they will so desperately need once they get out into the clinical world while reducing animal use during the learning period. So I found the following article about an Iowa State clinical lab that helps to reduce animal use while practicing potentially painful procedures. Check out the article on the new Iowa State Clinical Skills Laboratory
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