"If you want to study rat's brain, study Psychology. If you want to study the human brain, study Philosophy."
Nuria Querol, Medical Student
Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Location: Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
"If you want to study rat's brain, study Psychology. If you want to study the human brain, study Philosophy." I still remember this overwhelming (but unfortunately true in most cases) sentence my brother told me when I was studying Biology. During my Biology studies I had a serious crisis between what I thought Science should be and what I found in my practices. That should have been called Necrology.
Useless practices that included surgery were performed even though we had not been trained in sutures and stitches, therefore the experiments turned out to be traumatic experiences for students and a painful waste of animals lives. We were not offered any alternative, consequently objection meant failing the exam. I must confess I was scared; I couldnt pretend nothing was going to happen to the animals but I had no specific alternative resources to show to my professors. I was completely lost and did not know what to do until I realized that I could be of some help by attending the practices without performing anything on the animals, and writing a report of what was lying behind the walls of the University. So watching little innocent mice and rats being slaughtered for useless experiments became a non-return point for me, especially after spending a whole week trying to rescue a rat that I had already named Enriqueta.
The professor knew I was completely against the practices and was keeping an eye on me all the time though I tried to sneak out to Enriquetas cage to open it and run away with her. Nobody expected the rats to be killed that day and I shouted when the professor took Enriqueta the first one and decapitated her. I couldnt believe my eyes, I couldnt believe anyone could be so cold-blooded and cruel. I felt my heart stopping and suddenly beating with more strength that ever, I stared at him and swore to myself that from now on I was going to try to work to stop any animal testing. I have no words to describe how I felt when I was watching a sweet, healthy, funny and curious rat and suddenly there were only the remains of a dead body with no head and blood all over the table.
I felt I had to find a more scientific, accurate and compassionate way to become a scientist, and then I went to ADDAs headquarters with the report of the experiments that turned out to be the first report ever made by a Spanish student. We used the report to press the Catalonian Government to change the Law to protect lab animals in a more effective way. During that time, I became involved in the International Network for Humane Education (InterNICHE) and started spreading the message that alternatives were available and let students know that they had the right to conscientious objection. It is a matter of animal rights but also of civil rights, since it is possible nowadays to have a great education and training without hurting any animal and at the same time becoming better scientists, because we also incorporate ethics, empathy and compassion in all the knowledge we acquire during our studies.
I couldnt save her life but I will carry Enriqueta forever in my heart because she was the trigger I needed for my inspiration and I still think of her especially while talking to media or at a conference at a University. Thank you, Enriqueta, for making a difference in my life and hopefully in other animals and students lives.