Dissection: Support a Student’s Right to Choose

Once upon a time, the muckity mucks of curriculum design thought it would be a good idea to teach biology, the study of life, by having students participate in dissection labs that ranged from mutilating dead worms to rats, cats and fetal pigs, among other creatures.

It’s estimated that more than 170 species are used in dissection and vivisection. Every year high schools go through about 6 million vertebrates alone, while the numbers for elementary and middle schools and colleges are unknown, according to the American Anti-Vivisection Society

The animals that end up on lab tables can come from a number of sources. Some were taken from their habitat in the wild, while others are byproducts of the meat and fur industries. Still others may have been someone’s former pet who had the misfortune of being bought from a shelter or stolen by a Class B dealer, or animal broker who finds and sell dogs and cats to schools and research institutions for a profit.

Dissection is yet another way to fuel these businesses.

Students have come forward to express their discomfort and object to learning about the study of life by wasting the lives of others. Some are met with understanding and support, while others have to struggle with criticism and ostracism from both educators and peers to have their ethical objections recognized as valid.

This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with students wanting to participate, only that those who do not should be afforded the opportunity to choose an alternative and be given the tools they need to learn and make humane decisions that show compassion and a respect for life, instead of being taught apathy and lead to believe that treating animals as disposable objects is the norm.

Alternatives to dissection are readily available and have been proven to teach students just as well and are more cost-effective. However, while a few states have policies in place that allow students to say no, only 10 have implemented laws that allow students to choose an alternative without affecting their grade. 

The same success has been shown for those in higher education. The study, Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education,” was conducted by AAVS using information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The study found that students can learn just as well through alternative teaching methods that can include hands on training at shelters for vet students and simulators, that have been approved by the American College of Surgeons, for medical students.

It also highlighted some of the problems with Class B dealers, along with the use of animals at schools and research facilities when alternatives were available.

Legislation is pending in Connecticut that would give K-12 students the legal right to make their conscientious objections heard in the classroom. The bill, HB 5530, will require local and regional school districts to provide alternative methods including “simulated models, plastic models, computer programs, images and Internet sources, that students may perform in lieu of dissection of animals.”

If you’re a Connecticut resident, send a letter to your representatives asking them to support and pass this bill.

If you’re a student or educator who wants to promote humane learning and end the use of animals in education or establish student choice policies and laws in your school or state, visit Animalearn.org to learn more about numerous alternatives and resources available. 


Related Stories: 

Be Their Voice: World Week for Animals in Labs

The Vivisection Scam

Dog’s Death in Lab Causes Upset




Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billingham/


Peggy B
Peggy B10 days ago


Katherine Head
Katherine Head6 years ago

i am currently in middle school, and i am thankful that my teachers have let me go to the library on dissection days. unfortanately, i'm very worried about whether my teachers in high school will allow me to back out because of my beliefs. i hate dissection, especially since it is unnecessary.

Mary Danforth
Mary Danforrh6 years ago

Why should a student that will never have any use for cutting up animals in their lives be subjected to this horrific practice. They should have the option of opting out if they choose.I refused to do it when I was in school and so should other students that don't want to.

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh6 years ago

Thanks Terrell for bringing this to my attention. And thank you Jennifer S for having the courage of your convictions even then. And Thomas M, why shouldn't they have the option? Don't you believe in freedom of choice, or in the sanctity of ALL life? There are other alternatives available now, so why not use them?

Juli Ginez
Juli Ginez6 years ago

NO DISSECTION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terrell E.
Terrell Rodefer6 years ago

NO LIVE DISSECTION, EVER! I felt so guilty having to cut up a live frog in high school biology class. Still do.

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

I was forced to participate in numerous dissections in high school. I would have done anything for the right to say no.

Juli Ginez
Juli Ginez6 years ago

students shouldnt have to do this. i had to make that choice in school. there was no way in hell i was gonna do this!!!

Andrea Morehouse
Andrea Peterson6 years ago

Students should have the right to refuse dissection. They can learn the same concepts from pictures or diagrams. When I was in high school I was so distracted during this procedure I didn't learn anything from the project anyway.

Melissa Elaine Gacuzana

We are hoping to hear from the company, soon. We have asked to borrow a frog model. It just seems silly. The class is learning about declining population of frogs, and yet, they participate in killing them. Odd, no?? !!