Sansolini A. Conscientious Objection: The Right to a Good Science Education. Paper presented at: Alternatives in the Mainstream: Innovations in Life Science Education and Training. 2nd InterNICHE Conference; 2005 May 12-15; Oslo, Norway


The history of conscientious objection linked to animal experiments is a long one: already at the end of 19th Century the BUAV launched a campaign against compulsory vaccination, based both on the side-effects of vaccines, already reported in some scientific literature, and the huge number of animals used in vaccination experiments. A conscientious exemption clause was introduced in British legislation in 1907, giving parents a choice whether or not to vaccinate their children. The BUAV campaigned actively during the First World War to defend soldiers’ rights not to be vaccinated.

Similarly, the need to ensure that students could see recognised their right to refuse to perform animal experiments for ethical and scientific reasons has also progressively developed, forming new generations of scientists who could take advantage of studies not influenced by the culture of animal experiments.

A special case is represented by Italy, where in 1992 the refusal of some laboratory technicians to work in a new laboratory where animal experiments would have taken place led to a national campaign aimed at legalising conscientious objection to vivisection. From October 1993, Italian law 413 is the first in the world allowing doctors, researchers, nurses, technicians and students to refuse to be involved in any activities related to animal experiments.

Especially in the first years, the implementation of the law has been difficult: LAV produced the first materials to publicise in the universities the right to object, and assistance was provided to students who met problems with their teachers. There are now many more students who reject animal experiments and a growing number of alternative courses have been provided. All experiments on live animals for educational purposes have been abolished in most Italian universities.