It is assumed that about 1 % of laboratory animals is used for educational purposes around the world. According to various estimations, this seemingly nominal percentage still represents use of up to 100 million vertebrates around the world each year, and much more of invertebrates, whose protection is not usually defined in legislation.
In most countries, the use of animals in education of any level is usually not recorded, and the legislation related to this area does not exist (e.g. in China). However, there are also exceptions, when for example in three countries in different parts of the world dissections of animals were banned – in Argentina (1987), in Slovakia (1994), and in Israel (1999). The European Union has the most far-reaching regulations on the use of live animals in education. In the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals Used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes (to which the Czech Republic is a signatory), the Council of Europe states that: Procedures carried out for the purpose of education, training or further training of professionals… shall be restricted to those absolutely necessary for the purpose of the education or training concerned and shall be permitted only if their objective cannot be achieved by comparably effective audio-visual or any other suitable method. There are also national laws, like for example the Swedish Animal Welfare Act, that go futher than the Convention in that they define animal experimentation as also including the killing of animals for dissection purposes. In 1993, the Italian Parliament passed a law which gives the option to refuse attendance in animal experiment of any form to all citizens, without being penalised. In 2001, thanks to this favourable legal situation, and to persistent work of individuals, it was possible to abolish animal experiments in education at 64 % of Italian universities (91 faculties), and to replace them with alternative methods. Already three quarters of medical faculties in the Unites States eliminated demonstrations on animals, only two Canadian medical schools include animals in their courses. Studies are performed to determine experimental possible usage of new pharmacological drugs from constipation medication to triglycerides lowering medication. British medical and veterinary education is also mostly „alternative“. Active protests of students in many Australian universities resulted in broad replacing of animal experiments, and now all veterinary faculties give their students the right to conscientiously object to unnecessary animal use in the courses.
In 1988 the European Network of Individuals and Campaigns for Humane Education (EuroNICHE) was formed by a diverse groups of student conscientious objectors, anti-vivisectionists, ethologists and animal welfare researchers from several European countries, and in 2000 was transformed into a global network InterNICHE. InterNICHE aims for a high quality, fully humane education in biological science, veterinary and human medicine. It supports progressive science teaching and the replacement of animal experiments by working with teachers to introduce alternatives, and with students to support freedom of conscience. InterNICHE works in partnership with any individual, group or department that shares the common goals of replacement of harmful animal use and investment in high quality ethical science.
Also in Israel, the number of students who disagree with invasive education on animals grows, an many of them use the chance to loan alternatives from the InterNICHE Loan System, from which they can borrow required alternatives for free. In the South America, the regional network of students and organisations based in Brasil was established, and they organised several conferences which supported the importance of the use of alternative methods. Also in countries of their European ancestors, Spain and Portugal, the cultural approach to animal use in both science and education is being moving towards human trend. The change in accepting of the new principles, particularly in veterinary education, gradually develops also in India, even in the governmental level, where the main motivator is an activity of the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA). In Japan, a group of students aims for including of alternative approaches in education. They present their views also at scientific conferences. Individuals and organisations in other Asian countries start to educate themselves about the issue as well, and today a significant informational campaign and support of local teachers are in progress.
The financial benefits of using alternatives have been felt in, for example, Russia and Ukraine, where some animal experiments have ceased because of the economic crisis and subsequent lack of investment in education. While some particularly cruel experiments continue, interest in computer alternatives is growing. Thanks to joint support of British organisation RSPCA and international network InterNICHE, it was possible to build at Kyiv State University an alternatives lab which replaced the use of hundreds of animals.
Elsewhere in eastern Europe, financial and other resources are scarce too. However, there is considerable interest in humane teaching methods, and that is why the network InterNICHE linked up with another organisation, with Dutch Proefdiervrij in this case, and within the so-called Humane Education Award granted $ 18 000 teachers from former Yugoslavia, Romania, and Albania for developing of alternative methods to replace animal use. Another activity of InterNICHE is recycling and renovation of used computers from Britain for Russian and Romanian schools, along with software to create new alternatives lab.