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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 29 Aug 2009 Issue

Animals Are Not Tools To Education, They Are Sentient Beings

Every year millions of animals are harmfully used as tools in education. This use is still widespread in many educational environments, and it is not exactly known how many animals are killed for this reason. The estimated figures run into tens of millions.

Internationally, more and more students are objecting to practices of dissection and vivisection in schools and tertiary institutions. As a result of these objections groundbreaking work has been done by many dedicated professionals and volunteers to develop alternatives to these practices.

We are in a new age where old "regimes" and mindsets have been overturned. We are at the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the history of human rights, animal rights and social awareness.

A science such as Biology, where we as students are taught about incredible and complex biological systems and beings, should have a more gentle and respectful attitude towards the issue of animal use than that of the current attitude.

As biology students it is presumed that we will partake in dissection. Furthermore, we are taught that we as human beings are at the top of the food chain and that we can take what we want, when we want it. By teaching this, students are not instilled with a respect towards nature, which I would argue that a Natural/Biological Scientist should have if s/he is going to be working with animals and studying them as an occupational choice.

Instead of conveying this respect, we are taught that animals are disposable, non-sentient beings that are here for our convenience to be used as learning tools and then discarded. Teachers and lectures do not understand the implications of the underlying, subconscious message of disrespect that is transferred to the student. Most are unaware of this message that is being unconsciously yet deliberately conveyed – but once instilled in a persons mind this message is very hard to un-learn.

By creating a new approach to the "problem" of scholars and students that wish to have alternatives implemented, the educational institutions would be encouraging the extension of moral and social consciousness to another level – not only to animals, but a respect that would spread towards fellow human beings as well.

There are numerous reasons for objection to dissection and vivisection; for example, Students can object to using animals in education on a moral basis by recognizing some kind of value and sentience in an animal’s life, and having a deep found respect for that life. When we look at the health sciences (in particular medicine and surgery, but also psychology) a student could question the “correctness” of basing a human anatomical course on the anatomy of an animal. Religious beliefs also play a strong role in these objections. People are taught through certain religions to have respect and love for all life: human and non-human.

Since we are treading on new ground- students opposing dissection classes. There are so MANY alternatives that are readily available to replace dissection and vivisection, all of which are more effective and cost feasible in the long run than dissection and vivisection. And as a person with moral, ethical, scientific and religious objections to these uncompassionate practices – you have the right not to be discriminated against because of your compassion and respect for life. You have a right to a “cruelty-free” education. You have a right to these alternatives.

"How can values be integrated into education in a diverse, pluralistic democracy? With so many differences in values, how can citizens in a democracy find unity in the midst of pluralism? If it is true, as it appears to be, that schools and universities generally stopped making moral education an integral part of their curricula (…) because of the lack of a cultural consensus and the increase in religious and ethical differences, is it possible to include concerns for values in new ways, which admit the conflicts and disagreements, but confront them and seek to transcend them?"
~ R. Merikangas
"Values and Education in a Democracy"

InterNICHE, the International Network for Humane Education, is an international network that's main focus is on the implementation of alternatives in education. InterNICHE works with anybody who would like to work towards the replacement of animal use in education, with the main goal being moving towards a higher grade of compassionate and ethical science.

If you are a South African student, teacher or lecturer that has moral, religious, ethical or scientific problems with the harmful practice of dissection or vivisection– then we would like to hear from you. We can help you in your fight for humane education by supplying you with literature, videos, lists of alternatives and by giving information, advice and support in your struggle.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact Gina Walsh (South African interNICHE contact) or visit the interNICHE website for more info. For a list of international interNICHE contacts please visit

South African Contact: Gina Walsh
E-mail Address: [email protected]

_This article has been edited to allow text to fit out page.

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Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane [email protected]

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