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20 Jul, 2009 12:19

Bloodlust or eagerness to learn?

Two Ukrainian female students from different universities in Kiev dissected a dog in a kitchen and posted shocking pictures and video on the Internet. They claim it was homework.

Eighteen-year-old Anna D, a second-year student from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the National Institute of Biological Resources, and 19-year-old Alisa K. from Kiev’s Institute of International Relations have shocked the Internet community with Anna’s “homework,” Russian and Ukrainian media report.

The story began when the two girls decided to dissect a dead (as they insist) dog in the kitchen of Alisa’s apartment, claiming they were simply doing their best to complete Anna’s homework assignment. Moreover, they filmed the whole process on video and took a series of shocking photos with themselves posing next to the dog’s corpse. Finally, their video and photo reports found their way to the Internet.

Needless to say, such a provocative “photo session,” let alone video, evoked an immediate, angry response from animal-lovers across the Net.

“That was quite something!” Irina Sidelnik, one of the bloggers wrote, as quoted by Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. “They put candles into the dog, then lit them up and blew out as if it was a birthday cake…”

Surprisingly, even after the shocking pictures were removed by the administration of the website where the girls initially posted them, Anna tried to make a new account and expressed her anger over the administration’s actions.

Having realized the scale of the response to their “deeds,” the two girls ultimately removed the video, but the pictures instantly spread throughout the Internet.

“We got so caught up in the process. And it didn't feel like we were doing anything wrong. I mean, I love animals. I treat them very well – that’s the reason I want to become a vet,” says Anna.

In response to the most caustic comments in her blog, which has already been removed, Alisa tried to defend her girlfriend:

“It was the homework for all students – to bring a prepared bone. Many failed to do so; others bought it at the grocery store; yet Anna is firm in her principles. And all of a sudden, we were lucky enough to get this dog killed by a car. I mean, the dog was hit in the morning, and it was hobbling till afternoon, when it died.”

“Then we picked it up in the evening, stiff with cold,” Alisa carried on. “We dragged it to my place and dissected it. The work took some six hours, if not more. Of course, we also decided to take all those pictures.”

That would be it. But the vet academy is also shocked.

“It’s not ethical to post such photographs. They're shocking. I asked the student, and she said it was a joke. But it’s not a laughing matter. There was no such task set for the students, ever. They study anatomy – but in controlled conditions, at the university labs,”
says Mikhailo Prus, Dean of the Veterinary faculty.

Many raised concerns pertaining to the circumstances of the dog’s death too, spotting evidence that the dog might in fact have been killed by the pair. However, regardless of whether or not this is the case, the fact that a veterinary student simply watched the dog suffering, instead of providing help, is something beyond understanding.

“We just have a dark sense of humor, really. And we were trying to do a parody of this one really dark cartoon – well, our friends would have understood. I mean, we had the chance – why not have a laugh?” Alisa explains.

As if the photo session with the dog’s corpse was not enough, the duo have another story: this time with a mouse. In her blog, Alisa – a student at Kiev University of International Relations – describes how they injected the animal with a soporific and skinned it alive. After that, the girls removed the mouse’s intestines and took pictures “as mementoes.”

Meanwhile, responding to reactions, Kiev police state that, “there are no grounds to bring action” against the students.

With the respective legislation varying significantly between countries, a clear tendency to eliminate teaching approaches based on animal dissection can be observed nowadays worldwide, at least in medical schools.

“Almost 95 per cent of medical schools use no live animals whatsoever in their medical training. This includes such prestigious medical schools as Harvard, Yale and Stanford,” Julian Carr, a researcher who specializes in virtual dissection issues, voices his opinion, published in The Herald News.

However that may be, animal dissection remains an important learning tool in many biological disciplines, as well as in veterinary science. In this regard, it may be more valuable to put more emphasis on teaching bioethics in some countries, rather than imposing restrictions on essential laboratory techniques.

“There are dozens of ethical, acceptable ways to study the anatomy of an animal without killing it. They could have gone to a pet clinic, and simply worked with the doctors there. Healing teaches one just as much. In the end, a vet is not just about a steady hand with the scalpel – it’s also about having a heart, and these girls were completely heartless,” says Ilya Bluvshtein, chairman of Fauna animal rights protection society.