Category Archives: Blog

The Rise of Alternatives

Technology is paving the way for advances in science and medicine, and providing opportunities for learning, through the use of alternatives. From Organ-on-a-Chip to a virtual dissection table, superior methods to the traditional use of animals for education and research and being created and implemented.

In science classrooms, dissection has been a popular activity since the 1960s – but with advances in technology and the development of pedagogically sound alternatives, is this practice still necessary?

What is an Alternative?

The term alternative was coined in the late 1970s to describe methods that replace or reduce the number of animals used in science. Alternatives to animals in both research and education include models, simulators, videos, virtual reality and many others. It has been shown in many peer-reviewed studies that alternatives are equal to, or better than, classical animal dissection and are often more cost effective.

Who is using Alternatives?

Animal based science in Canada, and much of the world, is guided by an ethical framework provided through implementation of the 3Rs principle (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). The 3Rs are the cornerstone of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) that sets, maintains, and oversees the implementation of standards for the ethics and care of animals in science nationally. The CCAC works to ensure that animal-based science in Canada occurs only when necessary; and if there is a valid alternative that does not require the use of animal, then there is an obligation to use that alternative.

The University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is well-known for their use of alternatives which include models and simulators to help veterinary students learn how to practice medicine on a variety of animal species while reducing stress to live animals, and the overall number of animals used. Lakeland College’s new Animal Health Clinic also features state-of-the-art simulators and models.

What’s out there for teachers:

Our website features a number of alternatives including  online dissection simulations, apps & other alternatives including 3-D models, and number of simulators and apps specific to human anatomy.

What’s up-and-coming?   

Virtual Reality (VR) provides experiential learning that allows one to explore live human and animal systems. VR is being used by medical students to learn about human anatomy, and can provide surgeons the opportunity to virtually practice upcoming procedures.  As technology improves, there will be more cost effective ways for teachers to use VR for interactive and engaging learning opportunities. There are a few VR apps and videos that help students learn about the body; if you know of any others, share them with us!

With alternatives providing pedagogically effective ways of learning science outcomes, the ethical cost of killing animals for dissection may not be worth the return anymore. Visit our Dissection webpage to learn more about the ethics of dissection, student choice policies, and the pedagogical value of alternatives.

Animals and Remembrance Day

This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. Over 650,000 men and women from Canada served in this war, with 66,000 of those making the ultimate sacrifice. That is one in ten people who never returned home to their loved ones. Working alongside these brave men and women were…Continue Reading

Help animals in your community through a ‘Class Action’ Project!

Alberta SPCA ‘Class Action’ projects to help animals are the perfect opportunity to engage your students in service learning. Service learning projects address curricular outcomes while providing an opportunity to make a positive impact in the community. These projects help students build skills such as goal setting and critical thinking, and can help improve self-esteem…Continue Reading

Every One Counts Contest Prize Recipients!

We are happy to announce the prize recipients of the Every One Counts contest! Many of the entries were strong contenders, so to say it was a difficult decision would be an understatement. The three entries selected to receive a prize did a great job of telling us why the animals count and what actions…Continue Reading

Volunteer Spotlight – April 2018

We are fortunate to have two dedicated volunteers to help in our education program. From helping with our book lending program, to translating material for our recently launched French website, much of what we do would not be possible without the help of these fantastic individuals. With it being National Volunteer Week, we wanted to…Continue Reading

Five Reasons for AnimalTales

AnimalTales is a free book lending program (grades K-6) that encourages students to become more compassionate and develop a greater respect for all living things. This program was started in 2010 and is continually being updated with new books and materials! The feedback we get from teachers is overwhelmingly positive; in fact, many teachers use…Continue Reading

Two Must Have Books for Every Elementary Classroom!

Looking for new and exciting resources for teachers and students to use in the classroom is an important part of what we do. We strive to find books that engage student learning and promote humane education, as well as create activities that align with the curriculum. Here are two books we found that do just…Continue Reading

November is family violence prevention month

Deliberate abuse of a pet is a form of family violence and identification and intervention leads to protecting both people and animals. There is a plethora of research that shows a definitive link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. Young people who witness or commit acts of cruelty to animals may disclose these…Continue Reading

Announcing the 2017 Humane Award Recipient!

The Alberta SPCA’s Humane Awards recognize Alberta teachers and students who inspire others to show compassion for animals, people and the environment through example and leadership. We are pleased to announce this year’s Humane Award recipient! The Animal Rescue Crew at F.R. Haythorne Junior High in Sherwood Park is working to enhance animal welfare in…Continue Reading

What inspires us? What sustains us?

Many years and several careers ago, I came across this picture in a magazine; for some reason it resonated with me, so I cut it out and put it in a thrift store frame and hung it on my wall. Something about that lonely, hungry animal overlooking the beautifully chaotic landscape spoke to me, though…Continue Reading

Blog posts represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Alberta SPCA.