Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 19 October 2002
School Dissections "Cut It Out!"
Hearing a lot about violence in schools? You can do something to help: Cut
out dissection! Twenty million animalsófrogs, cats, mice, dogs, and
othersóare violently killed and shipped off to schools, where young people
are given scalpels and told to slice up the animalsí bodies as part of
biology, anatomy, and other courses.
What do dissections teach? Not much Ö except that itís OK to chop up
animals. In California, investigators brought up the possible connection
between a series of cat mutilations and the cat dissections at the local high
school. That wouldn't surprise us: In his last interview before his death,
Jeffrey Dahmer said that he became fascinated with blood and guts when his
school gave him a knife and a dead animal to cut apart in biology class.
What happens to the animals before the schools place their orders for bodies?
PETA did undercover investigations at biological supply companies, which sell animal bodies and parts, and found nightmarish acts of animal cruelty,
including the drowning of rabbits and cats embalmed while they were still
alive. Check it out for yourself in this video. Schools that purchase animal
bodies for dissection are paying for animals to be tortured and killed. Itís
You can also read more about dissection in PETAís "Guide to Animals and the Dissection Industry."
Itís disgusting, itís wrong, and itís time for it to end. And now you are
ready to fight dissection!
Itís easy, and you have the right. Thousands of students have done it, and
you can, too. You may be the first person at your school to refuseóso do it!
Express yourself and be a trendsetter, trailblazer, and animal hero.
If you're in grades kindergarten through 12 and attend public school in the
following states, just say "no": Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, New York,
Illinois, Rhode Island, California, and Louisiana. These states have
dissection choice laws in place. Private schools, colleges, and universities
are not covered by those laws, but you can still get an alternative. You've
just got to ask for it the right way (see number 2 below).
You donut let anyone tell you what to do, so what if your class requires
1. Find out as early as possibleópreferably a few months before the
courseówhat they say you have to do. Investigate: Find out what animals the
school uses and who supplies them. You'll be so angry that you'll most likely
not only exercise your right to refuse to dissect, but also demand that the
class stop using animals entirely!
2. Meet with the instructor right away and tell him or her that you cannot
participate in the dissection because of your "sincerely held religious and
moral beliefs about the sanctity of all life," and ask for a non-animal
alternative. These words provide the basis for a possible legal case. (You do
not have to support any formal religion; the courts have interpreted a belief
that animals should not be killed for classroom dissection to be a religious
belief, which schools cannot violate.) Do not offer a detailed explanation,
and don't get into an argument or try to defend your beliefsóyou donut have
to. State your position in writing, be calm and polite, and ask for a prompt
response. Make it clear that observing other students dissect an animal isn't
an acceptable alternativeóItís indirect participation in the dissection.
Keep copies of all correspondence and detailed notes of conversations; take
notes during any meetings.
3. Dissection has got to go. It was first introduced into schools in the
early part of the last century, and there are now way more advanced ways to
learn. Offer to research the alternatives and find those that satisfy the
objectives of the course. Show that you're willing to spend an equivalent
amount of time and effort learning the lesson using a humane alternative. A
number of organizations loan alternatives, including CD-ROMís and virtual
dissections, to students and schools. The following organizations have
extensive lending libraries and will be glad to help you find a suitable
alternative and provide you with additional information and suggestions:
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS)
American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS)
Ethical Science Education Coalition (ESEC) (The educational branch of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society)
"Alternatives in Education Database" (Allows keyword searches to identify a
wide variety of alternatives)
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Factsheets)
Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives and Recommendations by Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D. (An in-depth overview of the entire issue)
4. If youíre still told, "Dissect or fail," proceed up the chain of command.
If youíre in pre-college (kindergarten through 12th grade) write to the
principal, then the superintendent, and the school board. Ask your parents or
guardians to write on your behalf. If youíre in college, write to the
department head, then to the dean, and finally to the president.
5. If school officials still think they can violate your rights, call the
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) at 707-769-7771 (www.ALDF.org). The ALDF may be able to put you in touch with an attorney in your area who will be able to help you. These cases donít always need to go to court; they can often be settled with a phone call from an attorney.
6. Let other students and the community know how the school violates
studentsí rights and hurts animals. Get everyone on your side! Form a group
to demand studentsí right to a violence-free education. Write letters to the
editor of the school and local newspapers. Contact the campus radio station.
Meet with the editorial board of the campus newspaper and ask them to
editorialize in favor of studentsí right to choose humane alternatives to
dissection. Ask the student government to pass a resolution supporting your
efforts. Circulate petitions among students, and gather signatures of
support. Hold vigils and demonstrations and alert the media about your events
(contact PETA for help). For more information about activism, click here.
You can always call PETA for help with your dissection dilemma. We can send you literature and videos, psych you up, and use some PETA know-how and muscle to get your school to see things straight! Call 757-622-7382 to speak to a PETA rep today.
Sample Student Choice Policy
1. Alternatives to dissection must be available in all classes for students
who choose not to dissect.
2. The responsibility for creating an alternative lies with the teacher, not
3. Requiring the student to watch others dissect an animal is not an
alternative; the student must be allowed to leave the room while the
dissection is taking place.
4. Students will not be penalized or ostracized in any way for choosing the
5. A studentís choice to dissect or not to dissect shall be respected by all
school faculty, and the student shall be treated in a nonjudgmental manner. A
student must feel free to choose an alternative to dissection without fear of
being singled our or pressured.
6. All students must be informed in writing of their option to choose not to
dissect at the beginning of each semester during which dissection is
scheduled, a minimum of three weeks prior to the dissection.
7. Those instructors that still teach dissection in their classes must
verbally announce the policy to all students on the first day of the semester
and on the day of the dissection.
How to Answer Common Arguments Against Alternatives to Dissection
Youíre just being squeamish.
Feeling that dissection is wrong has nothing to do with being afraid or
squeamish; for many students, it is a violation of deeply held principles. It
is also OK to feel squeamish about doing something you find morally offensive.
If we make an exception for you, other students will claim that they have the right to be excluded from all sorts of requirements.
This doesnít address the issue at hand: the studentsí right not to be forced
to violate their beliefs as part of their education. Thereís no quota on how
many people are allowed to exercise their rights, and you canít take away
rights just because a lot of people are exercising them.
Students arenít qualified to determine whether or not dissection is a
necessary part of the curriculum.
Students are entitled to speak up when asked to do something that violates
their ethics. If they are "qualified" enough to participate, they are
"qualified" enough to decide whether they object to participation.
Dissection wouldnít be taught if it werenít an important part of the
Teaching techniques are constantly evolving and should be reevaluated
regularly. Countless students are educated every year at top schools without
There is no substitute for hands-on experience.
Actually, there are many substitutes for hands-on experience. But using
detailed models of animal anatomy and computer simulations both provide
There are no suitable alternatives.
The Alternatives in Education Database, from the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and the Norwegian Inventory of Audiovisuals (NORINA) contain thousands of alternatives to animal use in education. (Most instructors who use this argument havenít considered any particular alternatives, so ask which specific alternatives the professor has considered and rejected and why.)
The studentís claim to be a conscientious objector is inconsistent; he/she
eats meat, wears leather, eats dairy products, etc.
Religious freedom means that you can subscribe to any set of views. Sadly,
there are plenty of meat-eating Hindus, but they are Hindus nonetheless and
cannot be forced to do something else that they believe is forbidden by their
religion. If a student believes that it is immoral to wear fur or dissect
animals but OK to wear leather shoes, no one can dictate a different set of
moral values to that student. Everyone has the right to draw the line where
their conscience tells them to.
The school doesnít have enough money in its budget to purchase alternatives.
Many groups make alternatives available on loan to students who need them.
And alternatives to dissection are more economical over time; many students
can make use of one CD-ROM, for instance, but dissection requires that
multiple animals be purchased time after time.
Sample Letter To Use To Write Your Children's School Re Dissection
Date (insert date)
Dear (insert name of School, Superintendent and Science Teacher):
I am writing to express my concern in regard to the reasons animal dissection
should be removed from Science class as an "educational" activity.
Dissection is the cutting into of a dead animal to learn about the anatomy
or physiology of the animal. It involves cutting into a dead animal while
vivisection entails cutting into or dissecting a live animal. Over six
million animals are killed for the dissection industry each year.
Some animals, such as amphibians and reptiles, may suffocate or become
crushed during transportation to biological supply companies; most of the
animals used for dissection are killed and "processed" at such companies.
Undercover investigations have revealed animal abuse at biological supply
companies. Frogs, for instance, may be piled into bags for days or even
weeks while still alive. Rats may be embalmed alive. Cats may be forcibly
injected with preserving fluids after being only partially euthanized,
thrown into gas chambers, or drowned.
Animal dealers obtain cats, dogs, and other animals from "random sources."
Many of them may possibly steal companion animals from their guardian's
backyard and sell the animals to research labs or dissection companies.
In other countries, cats, for instance, have been purchased in Mexico, only
to be killed (by being drowned or having their throats slit), then sent to
the US for distribution.
I hope your school will consider using computer models instead of animals
and animal parts, such as a cow's eye, worms, frogs, and cats. It will
certainly help to teach children to respect all animals by doing so and it
will also help future animals who are suffering just so students can cut
A website that my son and his friends introduced to me is very educational
and cruelty free. Please visit: www.froguts.com
Thank you for your time,
Return to Animals in Print 19 Oct 2002 Issue
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the Editor: Linda Beane [email protected]
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