InterNICHE introduces alternatives to animal use in education to Iran

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  October 2012: (Actually published on November 1,  2012.)

I visited Iran in April and June 2012 as an invited speaker at the 17th Iranian Veterinary Congress and to conduct outreach to universities.  A previous InterNICHE visit to Iran in 2011 had been the first alternatives outreach to the country.  The 2012 outreach was part of a wider project that included extended stays in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Discussions were held to explore with veterinary students the possibility of co-organising a student-focused alternatives conference as a satellite to a larger veterinary congress in the future.  I also met with zoologists at the Marine Sciences University,  and gave talks to more than 100 people at two branches of the Islamic Azad University.
. For many teachers and students this was their first significant exposure to alternatives,  and the first time that animal experimentation had been comprehensively challenged.  Student interest was very high,  reflecting widespread discomfort with harmful animal use,  and many teachers recognized the pedagogical, ethical,  and economic advantages of alternatives.
. A subsequent meeting with the Dean of the Veterinary Faculty at Tehran University was also very positive,  with the Dean acknowledging the role that alternatives can play within education.
. A number of students offered to help promote alternatives, and to help translate the new InterNICHE website into Farsi.  A meeting with students from different universities was held to establish a student alternatives group,  and meetings with Iranian Anti-Vivisection Association campaigners were held to strategize and build community.
. Such meetings are very important,  particularly with Iranian censorship and international sanctions isolating the country and its people from many international connections.
. IAVA in September 2012 was given the Brown Bear Award by Iran Animal Rights Watch for being the most active animal rights group in Iran.  The ability of IAVA and its associated fledgling vegan movement to campaign in Iran reflects both the motivation of its members,  and the degree to which animals are considered by some others to be particularly unworthy of consideration.
. The contrast between developments in Iran and those in Egypt is interesting. While Egypt has a well-established and widespread animal welfare movement,  only some campaigners are vegetarian.  Few are vegan.
. The movement for animals in Iran is younger and very much smaller,  but is more animal rights,  antivivisection, and vegan-oriented.  By the second half of the 20th century, Iran had developed a sizeable liberal and educated middle class,  and the critical thinking and confidence that education can provide has carried through to the present day,  particularly in Tehran.  Egypt, by contrast,  has a more agrarian economic base,  and does not have the same overall level of education.
. The conditions and treatment of animals in Egypt and Iran are similar. Beating dogs to death in public is not unknown in Iran. Animals are also killed in Egypt by lacing food with poison or glass shards.
. In terms of animal use in education and training,  one Iranian student testified about attending labs at which rabbits regained consciousness during experiments,  and where horses struggled against untrained students’ attempts to insert a nasal tube.  IAVA identified experiments performed on dogs that involved breaking their limbs.  Other animal experiments and the dissection of animals killed for the purpose are widespread,  but are increasingly being questioned.
. Immediately after the seminar at the Garmsar branch of the Islamic Azad Univer-sity,  two dogs were to be killed for use in a pathology class.  Instead,  the local group Raha Animal Rescue provided the cadaver of a dog who had died after a road accident. Another cadaver was donated by a companion animal guardian who had seen in a veterinary clinic an IAVA poster promoting a body donation program.  The animals scheduled to be killed were rescued and then rehomed.  Similar rescues occurred in 2010 and 2011.
. Other positive changes in Iran have included the release of frogs destined for  classroom use into a forest;  ending seizure tests in pharmacy education at Shahid Beheshti University;  and ending experiments on dogs and rabbits by a physiology teacher who borrowed a Biopac Student Lab from the InterNICHE Alternatives Loan System operating in Iran since 2011,  and was very impressed with its potential as a replacement for the last animal experiments in his class.
. Current economic sanctions were identified as a barrier to the import and use of several alternatives to animal experimentation. Local production of alternatives was recognized as one solution.
. InterNICHE gratefully acknowledges funding support from Doctors Against Animal Experiments for our activity in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan,  and from the Anti-Vivisection Union of South Australia, the International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals, Animalearn,  and Mrs. Sheelagh Graham for the whole project.
. The assistance of Ms. Sepideh Hosseini is also acknowledged.  
-Nick Jukes Coordinator,  InterNICHE 98 Clarendon Park Road Leicester  LE2 3AE,  England Phone:  44-116-210-9652  <> <>


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