Alternatives to SXR270 Animal Experiments

This course, in common with most other science residential courses, has been discontinued, but this information is included for interest.

The course included two experiments using animals for which alternatives were available. One used tissue from freshly-killed rats study tissue respiration using oxygen electrode. The other used tissue from freshly-killed caterpillars to study transport of substances across gut cell membranes.

SES made alternatives avaiable. It was unjust that students who had paid the same for their courses as those prepared to use animal tissue were not offered any academically-equivalent alternative to the rat and caterpillar tissue experiments.

As well as being more humane, computer simulations - after the initial investment - are cheaper to use than animals, as they can be used again and again. If students make mistakes, they can go back and try again. They can alter parameters, and obtain a more thorough understanding than is possible from the OU animal tissue experiments, which are crude and limited by comparison. It is therefore unsurprising that students have been found to learn at least as well - often better - using simulations such as these.

From information provided by SES, the Open University has known for years that it is possible to use plant tissue instead of animal tissue for the rat tissue experiments. Some academics still insist that it is essential for students to have experience of handling tissue from freshly-killed animals, but most SXR270 students will not be planning careers in animal experimentation. It is also discriminatory, and may fall foul of new legislation protecting vegans from discrimination.

SES has purchased two Sheffield BioScience computer simulation programs which are available for SES members taking SXR270 to borrow. They can practise at home and then take them to their residential course and request the use of a computer. We would not expect the University to refuse such a request.

If desired, users can demonstrate the programs to their fellow-students and tutors, and allow them to try them. Animals are used out of habit and tradition. Shouldn't the OU be showing the way forward?


Intestinal Absorption

This simulation replaces the SXR270 experiment which uses tissue from freshly-killed caterpillars. The experiment is in Theme 2 - Energy, and shows how the use of ATP by cells is illustrated by investigating active transport of ions across the wall of the guts of larvae of the tobacco hornworm moth (Manduca Sexta).

For more information see Intestinal Absorption and Intestinal Absorption review.


Cellular Respiration

This simulation replaces the SXR270 experiment which uses tissue from freshly-killed rats. The experiment is in Theme 2 - Energy, and shows, using oxygen electrodes, how substrates derived from food are converted to ATP in tissues and cells.

For more information see Cellular Respiration and Cellular Respiration review.


Opting out of animal experiments

There are precedents for opting out of animal experiments at residential school and using simulations with no penalty. You will need to speak to the course team chair. It is also important to contact the appropriate staff as soon as possible so that they don't order the animals, as they will probably end up being killed anyway, assuming they survive the journey.