By continuing to allow pigs and cats to be harmed and killed in its Survival Flight course for nurses, the University — my undergraduate alma mater — is violating both the spirit and the letter of federal laws designed to protect animals in laboratories (PETA files complaint against ‘U’ Survival Flight course, 09/13/2010).

The Animal Welfare Act states that animal use in experiments or training should only be approved when non-animal methods are “not available.” It’s impossible for the University to meet this burden when evaluating the use of animals for the life support skills covered in its Survival Flight course because other University advanced training courses use sophisticated human patient simulators. Simulation mannequins are recognized as the preferred standard for teaching because they allow trainees to practice on accurate anatomy and repeat procedures until they are adept.

Just last year, the University’s Graduate Medical Education Committee announced that simulators would replace the use of animals in the school’s Advanced Trauma Life Support course — a course for physicians and nurses that covers the same procedures that pigs are still being cut up and killed for in Survival Flight.

When I was a law student at Texas Tech University, the school ended the use of cats for pediatric intubation training. This is the skill that is still being taught by maiming cats in Survival Flight even though the University’s Pediatric Advanced Life Support course already teaches this skill using simulators exclusively.

The use of animals in the Survival Flight course is morally, scientifically and legally unjustifiable. I hope that the University will take the high road, admit that it can do better and make easy — but necessary — curricular changes that benefit humans and animals. Until then, I’ve given up my membership to the Alumni Association and have let the school know not to expect any more checks. I hope people follow suit.

Robyn Katz
The letter-writer is a University alum and current legal fellow with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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