Don’t Want to Dissect an Animal in Class? Another State Says You Won’t Have To

OK, class – let’s see a show of hands. Who took a science course in high school and had to dissect an animal in order to get a passing grade?

How many of you animal-loving rebels refused to cut open a frog and got a bad grade for your compassionate stance? How many dissected reluctantly, with tears in your eyes, because you needed a good grade point average to get into [insert name of awesome college here]?

Happily, for many high school students, the days of being forced to dissect a frog or small mammal are history now. The latest state to make it possible for students to opt out of this sad, creepy practice is New Hampshire. High five, Granite State – we salute you.

Following the recent example set by Connecticut, the New Hampshire Board of Education adopted a Student Choice Policy in late March that offers guidelines for school districts to help them develop their own policies for students who oppose dissecting or otherwise using animals in class, whether alive or dead.

The Board of Education found:

An activity in which living or dead animals are viewed, cut, killed, inspected, touched, handled, preserved, mounted, or otherwise manipulated in ways which may cause harm to them, is a potential source of ethical conflict or sensitivity that may adversely affect student learning. Students need opportunities to replace instructional activities that may cause ethical conflicts with choices that are more engaging for them without loss of academic value.

Shelter cat in a cage

This innocent shelter cat is fair game for schools searching for animals to dissect in class.

Schools must now provide alternative lessons for students in grades K-12. These no-dissection classes must be of equal educational value and academic rigor. The guidelines suggest offering such alternatives for all life sciences classes that use animals in any way, living or dead. Students may not be penalized for deciding to choose the alternative lessons.

“Alternative activities should not be more difficult, or require more work or time than the original activity with which the student had ethical conflicts,” according to the policy.

It’s great news for students whose moral and ethical standards will not allow them to use animals for school class purposes. The news is particularly welcome for those who refuse to participate in dissection for educational purposes.

Many States Now Allow a Student to Choose Not to Dissect

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 20 states — now including New Hampshire — offer students a way out of dissection. They are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Didn’t realize your state offered this option? Click on PETA’s list to find a copy of the policies for each of the above listed states and discuss with your school’s principal or your child’s teacher.

Why Cant Every State Be This Accommodating?

There’s no reason every state can’t let students opt out of dissection in science classes. In fact, there’s no reason any of these classes needs to dissect real animals at all.

The sad truth is that the approximately 10 million animals used for classroom purposes come from a variety of stomach churning sources. Biological supply houses breed rabbits, mice, rats and other small animals in warehouses specifically for this use. Fur farms provide the corpses of skinned foxes, minks and rabbits.

Other sources include slaughterhouses, where fetal pigs are sliced out of the wombs of dead mother pigs, and sheep organs or cow’s eyeballs are removed from carcasses and sold in the name of science. Millions of frogs and other amphibians are taken straight from the wild.

Most heartbreaking of all, schools even snag animals for dissection and experimentation purposes from pet stores, animal shelters and off the street. None of this is remotely necessary in the 21st century.

Today, countless online and digital resources offer simulated dissection lessons that are typically a superior form of education than carving open an innocent animal. Why doesn’t every high school and college use these resources instead of real animals? Here’s just one brief video example of this type of simulation:

To see some of what’s available out there, take a peek at the robust list of online resources the New Hampshire Board of Education listed with its announcement of its new Student Choice Policy. The digitally reproduced innards of frogs, rabbits, cats, sheep, pigeons, fish, fetal pigs and more are available, easy to find, and often free of charge to use.

In New Hampshire, students need never smell stinky formaldehyde or pin down the stiff, curling legs of a murdered animal again. That’s cause to celebrate.

For the states without a Student Choice Policy, what’s with the foot dragging? Virtual dissection is kinder and less expensive. In fact, it’s often freely available. What are you waiting for?

Photo credit (all images): Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

When I was in high school (45 years ago), we had to dissect a frog. I had a lab partner and she did the cutting, I did the writing of our findings. I cried the whole time!

The Virtual dissection simulation is oh, so much better!!

And, of course, my stupid state is NOT on the list of the ones who offer the simulations!

Ann Razumovskaya
Ann R3 years ago

Dissecting isn't good, even if the animal is dead.

Virginia Abreu de Paula

Dissect animals should no happen. Not necessary at all. Good video about it.

Shan D.
Shan D3 years ago

"I am a 72 year old woman. Anyone else notice how most of the comments against this practice of learning about the biology of life have been written by wimpy girls/woman. The animals who are dissected with the exception of frogs are already dead and preserved." (Pauline B.)

So what if you're 72? So what if you're female? I did notice that you've been here nearly 5 years, have earned less than 2 weeks' worth of butterfly points (assuming 1000/day, which is quite doable), and redeemed ZERO of them. And your entire post here shows me someone completely without compassion, yet expects respect for the "age card."

It doesn't matter that the animals are already dead prior to being dissected. The point is that they were killed for NOTHING, and the vast majority of students forced to cut up these innocent animals will never need such knowledge. If they're going into medicine or veterinary practice, university is time enough for such things - and only when absolutely necessary.

Just curious, Pauline - did you will your body to medical research so that after you're dead, medical students can dissect you? If so, at least you would have made the choice for yourself. These animals were given no choice at all.

Pauline Bacon
Pauline Bacon3 years ago

I am a 72 year old woman. Anyone else notice how most of the comments against this practice of learning about the biology of life have been written by wimpy girls/woman. The animals who are dissected with the exception of frogs are already dead and preserved.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I do not see any need for anyone in the lower grades, including high school, to dissect any animals. Maybe in college if they are going to vet school or something but it should not be forced on any student. I was in junior high and we were forced to dissect worms. Disgusting. Then the "boys" in class decided it was fun and chopped their poor worm to bits and started throwing its parts on the rest of the class. It was awful and unnecessary.

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

The need to understand the inner workings of animals was much more important when farming what the primary means of income, and you probably had to know how to help the animals for which you were responsible. In today's world of bots and technology, most of the kids won't be going into biology, and even if we want all of them to have a minimal understanding of what's going on in bodies, then with today's CGI and/or remote filming, a million animals don't need to be sacrificed to still allow that sort of learning to occur.

Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

How is dissection of an animal in junior/senior high school going to help a student in life? It may just hurt, if he/she loves animals. Even many veterinary schools are stopping this abhorrent practice, or, at least, allowing a choice, when there are alternatives--There are simulators, pictures, even a TV camera of just one dead animal. Most vets never even see a frog in their practice.
When I took an anatomy course that required dissection of a frog, I refused and still received an "A". And, guess what, I am the better for it.

Meta R. --The dissection of an animal in high school will not help a surgeon learn about a human body (there are cadavers and simulators for that in med school), and it certainly won't help the rest of the majority of students who have no desire to become one. It just reinforces the pathetic notion that animals are disposable.
Joe V. Since when is compassion for animals considered "political correctness"? Thank god for your so-called "candy arses". There is enough violence and insensitivity towards animals, and a good deal of that is from young boys.