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Animal experiments are vital, says Nobel winner

TEACHERS must recognise that experiments on animals are a crucial part of scientific research, a Nobel laureate has told The TES.

Sir John Vane, whose pharmacological research won the 1982 Nobel prize for medicine, said that the future of science "needs schoolteachers to recognise that animal experiments are necessary for developments of new drugs".

Sir John and a group of other Nobel winners are calling for better science education under the umbrella of the Save British Science campaign.

Peter Cotgreave, the campaign's director, said it was crucial that schools put the case for and against animal experimentation in a balanced manner.

"Wherever there is a debate among the public and in society, schools must always do their best to teach that fairly and present both sides of the argument," he said.

Leading scientists warned the House of Lords science and technology committee three years ago that animal rights concerns and pupil sensitivities had led to an alarming decline in dissections in biology classes.

Nervous schools were also robbing pupils of the chance to learn through experiments for fear of litigation if pupils got hurt, they claimed.

However, in a survey of 2,000 students conducted for Science Year, three-quarters of teenagers said that they wanted more hands-on practical experience, including dissection.

David Moore, chief executive of the Association for Science Education, said: "Teachers will always do their best to present a fair discussion. The dilemma is, do they have access to the most recent information? Part of the issue is encouraging that sort of debate among teachers."

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