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  1. News Release

  2. Sep 14, 2020

Following Public Outcry, UVA Halts Live Animal Use for Surgery Training

University Joins Majority in Using Human-Relevant Methods

The Lawn at University of Virginia
The Lawn at University of Virginia
Photo: Getty Images

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members, is congratulating the University of Virginia (UVA) for ending the use of live animals in its surgery residency program. Via telephone, the Physicians Committee learned that a 2019 federal complaint filed by the group and subsequent media coverage caused the Department of Surgery to reevaluate animal use and eventually end the practice. 

Previously, residents at UVA were instructed to cut into live pigs to practice open and laparoscopic procedures, including making multiple incisions to insert surgical tools in order to perform procedures on the bowel, liver, kidneys, and spleen. UVA was approved to use up to 32 pigs per year for this training.

Most surgery residencies in the U.S. do not use animals for training, opting instead to use modern, human-relevant methods alone. Human-patient simulators and partial task trainers feature layers of lifelike skin, fat, and muscle, accurately replicating human anatomy and allowing for repeated practice. 

“UVA’s surgical training program has entered a new era that will benefit both its general surgery residents and their future patients,” said Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, John Pippin, MD, FACC. “The available evidence firmly points to nonanimal training methods as superior, educationally and ethically.”

Currently, 195 other surveyed general surgery residency programs in the U.S. exclude live animal use from training. 

To speak with Dr. Pippin, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at]

Media Contact

Reina Pohl, MPH



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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