(photo credit: AP)
A handful of Hebrew University animal science students who objected to dissecting rats and small sharks to study anatomical zoology will have to do it after all if they want to complete their degrees, following a decision by the Central District Court this week.
Judge Hila Grestel ruled that the dissections in such courses were legal under the regulations protecting animals. The university said the students did not have to kill the animals, as they were imported already dead and preserved.
The university's Robert Smith Faculty of Agriculture asked the court to reject the suit filed by the students, who argued that participating in dissections "violated their consciences" and contravened their basic right to freedom of conscience.
Grestel rejected their argument, saying that academic freedom was also a basic right. The court declared that it could not interfere with the university's academic freedom because dissection was necessary for teaching zoology and could not be replaced by "virtual" animals on computers.
The judge said the zoology students were "selective" in their understanding of "conscience" as they did not categorically oppose all animal experimentation. The court also accepted the university's view that animal dissection was presented as a requirement of the course at registration and in the students' catalogue - and that those who registered were aware of this.
As a result of the ruling, if they don't perform the dissections, they will not meet the criteria for completing the course, the court said.
Prof. Bertha Sivan, head of the HU department of animal sciences, commented that she was pleased with the ruling, as "it will help us preserve the academic level of our academic courses."