Really Virtual or Just Virtually Real: When Sustainability and VR Collide

Last week, I was kidnapped from home, transported over long distances and pumped full of embalming chemicals. I was being used in a biology experiment in a classroom and it all started while I was still alive.

This is what I imagine would be the blog post from a frog if a frog could post.

As I philosophically reflect on what it means to be a science experiment while Hongkongers (and many people all over the world) are feeling like a living petri dish incubating millions of germs during this flu season and coronavirus outbreak, millions of animals are facing the reality that they are indeed the next science experiment. A mind-boggling number of four-legged creatures meet their end when they’re packed and shipped for use in classroom dissection or in science laboratories. Along with fetal pigs and cats, frogs are the most commonly dissected vertebrates in American high school classrooms, says the website animalearn.org.

Sure, it’s more feasible to carry out initial clinical tests and medical experiments on animals in science labs, instead of using humans. Even with all our advances in science so far, there just isn’t any other better way to explore and experiment with real, living things. (I shudder a bit as I recall the plot to the sci-fi romance film and novel, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, in which a future envisioned that humanity had already progressed to battery-farm cloning of humans and harvesting of vital organs, thus breeding a race of live donors for other “better” humans.) But apart from use of real animations in dissection, do we have an alternative way to carry out anatomical teaching in the 21st century?

Spare a frog today. You too, can say no when it comes to animal dissection. Let VR drive sustainable methods for education and classroom teaching.

Recently, I met up with my friend and coincidentally discussed the sorry plight of animals in dissection. My friend Rojan is an entrepreneur who is gathering educational content for virtual reality teaching and bringing that to needy people groups, at an affordable price. It turns out VR is not just used for gaming but also for education.

But, you may ask, how is this remotely related to sustainability? As it turns out: “There are lots of modern, educationally superior alternatives to dissection. Instead of killing real animals, schools can use VR and use [those lessons] repeatedly. It can even help to save money,” says Rojan, who is the founder and CEO of the social enterprise Digitechtive Limited, not to mention saving lives. These animal-free teaching methods allow students to repeatedly to conduct their dissection and experiments until they are confident with their skills.

They never say much, but those little frogs can feel pain and fear, just as we can. Thankfully, they have David Attenborough to speak up for them, which he did in his 2014 documentary on frogs. That charming show revealed that many species of frogs are disappearing from the Earth at an alarming rate.

So, spare a frog today. You too, can say no when it comes to animal dissection. Let VR drive sustainable methods for education and classroom teaching.

After all, if your surgical knife accidentally slips during a VR dissection, you can always reassemble that frog and start over again.

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