In biology classes throughout most of the United States,
in grade school through high school, students who object to dissection
are being asked to choose between lowered or failing grades and the
violation of their religious and ethical principles. This is not a
choice students should have to make.
Concerns about requiring students to dissect are on the
rise, as more and more students are questioning the unnecessary killing
of millions of frogs, turtles, pigs, cats, mice, rats and other animals
for educational purposes.
These students, their parents, and many of their
teachers are demanding an alternative -- one that doesn't harm animals.
Students who object to dissection should have their
feelings respected. Several states have already drafted legislation to
protect students' rights to an alternative. Other states have already
passed laws guaranteeing students that right. It's time for all states
to acknowledge the right of students to have an alternative to biology
lessons which cause harm to animals.
Myths and Facts About Dissection
Myth: Dissection is necessary for students to learn
biology and physiology.
Fact: Many studies have shown that students who dissect
do no better on tests than those who don't dissect. Students using
"low-tech" methods such as classroom discussions, textbook study, and
charts and graphs, but do not dissect, score equally well on tests as
those who do. Students using "high-tech" methods, such as computer
programs, scored higher compared to those who performed dissections.
Myth: Alternatives are too expensive.
Fact: First-time costs of buying alternatives can
sometimes appear high. However, alternatives are a one-time investment
since they can be used again and again each year. On the other hand,
animals for dissection must be purchased each year, leading to high
costs over time. A recent cost-benefit analysis of "high-tech"
alternatives vs. traditional dissection showed that alternatives can pay
for themselves in just over two years of use. (Also, please see
information below about Animalearn. - Editor).
Myth: Students rights to an alternative violates a
teacher's academic freedom.
Fact: The teacher is not restricted in any way; he or
she is only required to offer something in addition to dissection -- an
alternative project for students who object to dissection.
Myth: Providing students with alternatives gives them
too much control over their education.
Fact: There is a major difference between requiring a
student to read or think about something and requiring her or him to
actually do something to which they object.
Alternatives to Dissection
There are hundreds of alternatives to dissection. Great options are
that fit into any budget and are appropriate for students from
through high school. The following list demonstrates some of the many
of alternatives that are available. The AAVS can provide you with a list
specific products including detailed descriptions, costs, and ordering
• Videos and Films* - Detailed visuals exploring the
anatomy of humans and animals in real-time illustrate the process of
dissection and the details of various species physiology.
• Models - Newer models are extremely detailed; some
look and feel like real specimens.
• Natural Observation - A wealth of information can be
gained from observing animals in their natural habitats. Specific lesson
plans have been developed to maximize this learning experience.
• Computer Programs - Computers offer the ability to
review and repeat the dissection process in an interactive and highly
• Books and Charts - With new developments in printing
and design, many books and charts provide students with high-definition,
realistic images of human and animal physiology.
• Slides and Transparencies* - Detailed photos of normal
and pathological human and animal tissues and structures provide
instructors good instructional tools they can use at their own pace.
* These alternatives might not be appropriate for all
students since dissected animals are depicted in great detail. For those
with objections to these methods there is a wide variety of other
Animalearn has developed The Science Bank: Education for
the Future, a loan program for alternatives to dissection. Animalearn is
dedicated to assisting educators and students find non-animal methods to
study science by allowing them to borrow from their wide array of
dissection alternatives. To learn more about The Science Bank and the
educational information it offers on a variety of topics, contact them
at the AAVS, whose address and telephone number are listed below, or
visit their website:
What You Can Do
If you think that students should not be forced to dissect animals, now
is the time to speak out. You can help introduce a bill to protect
students' rights in your state. Please contact your state senator and
representative and ask them to sponsor and/or support legislation that
gives students the right to an alternative. To find out the names,
addresses and phone numbers of your state legislators, contact your
local League of Women Voters (their phone number is listed in the
telephone book) or visit this website:
If you are a student:
In a polite but assertive manner, let your legislators know how it feels
to be forced to dissect animals against your will. Ask them to consider
legislation that would give students the right to an alternative. You
can also write an editorial to your school newspaper. If you would like
to introduce alternatives at your school, contact The AAVS for copies of
our materials on dissection, including a listing of alternatives.
If you are a parent:
Let your legislators know how you feel about your children being forced
to dissect against their will. You can also bring up the issue at school
board or parent/teacher meetings.
If you are a teacher:
Let your legislators know that dissection is not necessary and that
forcing students to dissect against their will is unfair. Lend your
support to students who are seeking alternatives and discuss the issue
with other teachers.
Contact us for copies of this brochure and other materials on
dissection. Distribute them wherever and whenever you can.
How do educators and scientists feel about students having an
alternative to dissection?
"The National Association of Biology Teachers should
foster a respect for life and should teach about the interrelationship
and interdependence of all living things. Furthermore, they should teach
that humans must care for the fragile web of life that exists on this
planet. In light of these principles, NABT supports alternatives to
dissection and vivisection whenever possible in the biology curricula."
-- 1989 Policy Statement from the Responsible Use of Animals in Biology
Classrooms by the National Association of Biology Teachers
"Students should not be forced to participate in the
death of animals in order to study and understand the beauty and
complexity of life."
-- John E. McArdle, Ph. D., Anatomist
"Several years ago, both I and my biology teacher
decided that students could learn just as much about frogs and their
anatomy from charts and textbooks as they could from actual dissection."
-- Peter McMonigle, High School Principal
"We educators teach and require courtesy and respect
from our students. It only seems fair to accord them the same respect.
Education should not place students in a position in which they have to
violate their moral and ethical standards.
-- Virginia Wolfe, Fifth Grade Teacher
The American Anti-Vivisection Society
801 Old York Road, #204
Jenkintown, PA 19046-1685
Visit our website: www.aavs.org
This article was printed, with permission, from a
pamphlet by the AAVS. Please contact them if you have any questions or
would like copies of the pamphlet to distribute.
Go on to Zoos ~
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