Biological Science, 1994 - present
University of Bochum & University of Osnabrück, Germany

Students of biology at the University of Bochum in Germany have to complete two lab courses involving animal misuse: the 'morphological dissection course for beginners' in the 1st semester, and the physiology course in the 6th semester. I entered the University of Bochum as a biology student in September 1994. I knew very little about the contents of the course or of animal misuse in the study of 'biology'. Within a few days, I co-founded an animal rights group along with other students, to focus on making arrangements with the professors for personal exemption from participation in obligatory dissections. Simultaneously, four of us participated in the morphological dissection course, but refused the dissection of specially killed animals. What we didn't know was the last dispute between students and professors about the 'necessity' of killing animals for study had ended with an official statement by the university against alternative methods, one year before, in February 1994. So our efforts proved worthless. In January 1995, the professors proclaimed that the four of us would not be allowed to participate in the exam of the morphological dissection course, a condition to get the necessary certificate.

As a last resort, therefore, we instituted legal proceedings against the university. And, unexpectedly, we were successful: in February 1995, and only one day before the exam, the Administrative Court of Gelsenkirchen (first level) permitted our petitions and told the university through an interim order to let us participate in the exam. And although all of us passed the exam, the university withheld the certificate of the morphological dissection course. So the main lawsuit was filed in April 1995, aimed at getting both this certificate and a further education without animal misuse.

In February 1996, one of the four plaintiffs, Heike Weigt, had to take the university to court again to achieve a new interim order: she had already finished her basic study and needed to participate in the intermediate chemistry test in order to proceed to the specialised level of her degree. The university was denying this test to her because she now did not have the necessary certificates to participate, and the date of trial in the main lawsuit was not in prospect. Heike was successful again. But this time the university appealed to the Upper Administrative Court of Münster (second level), and unfortunately the appeal was permitted: in June 1995, the Upper Administrative Court revised the judicial decision of the Administrative Court by disaffirming the interim admission in the intermediate chemistry test. An appeal wasn't possible.

After this unexpected development, the situation for me was also hopeless. Although the main lawsuit was initiated in April 1995, there was no prospect of a trial before 1997. Because of some very strange statements made by the Upper Administrative Court it also seemed impossible that the main lawsuit could have any success at the first two levels. The only hope for studying biology, therefore, seemed to be the third level - the Federal Administrative Court. But even this was a problem. On the one hand I could not do anything more in my basic study, having all the necessary certificates apart from the morphological dissection course, and on the other I was not allowed to begin my specialised study because of the absent intermediate test certificate.

Finally, it seemed absolutely impossible to continue the study until the Federal Administrative Court had decided in the main lawsuit. But this would not happen for the next five years. And because of the financial necessity to complete my studies fast, it was impossible for me to continue my lawsuit without also studying at the same time. By chance I heard that in Osnabrück students could evade both the morphological dissection and the physiology course. So Osnabrück was the only university in Germany that did not force its students to take part in animal misuse. And so over a two week period I changed to Osnabrück together with Heike Weigt. I withdrew my lawsuit because its maintenance was not possible judicially. One student, however, is still suing - and still waiting.

Because there was no coercion of participation in animal misuse and because of my 'experiences' in Bochum, I tried to study very 'normally' in Osnabrück. An attempt to found an animal rights group was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, I was still active in most levels of animal rights, especially in the political attempts of SATIS, the German InterNICHE group, to establish better laws for both animal and student rights, until 1998. Unfortunately, my studies and the necessity of getting money took priority. And unfortunately the University of Osnabrück changed the content of the course last year, so students can't evade animal misuse any longer. During my studies I had the firm intention to found a group 'Biologists for Animal Rights' as soon as I graduated, as biology is one of the professions where the most animals are tortured and killed. Now I'm afraid I will not be very successful in finding the other professional biologists for such a group, because of the 'selection' of students by the system of animal misuse in German education. In the meantime, however, I have gained my intermediate certificates through the University of Osnabrück, and I will finish my studies in June this year - without animal misuse.


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