Should schools dissect animals?
- Animal dissections have been used in American schools for decades, since the 1920s.
- As of 2015, 84% of pre-college biology educators reported using dissection of animals as a teaching tool with 70% agreeing it is “the best way to teach anatomy and/or biology.”
- Common creatures used in school dissections include frogs, fetal pigs, cats, mice, rats, rabbits, turtles, bats, earthworms, and others.
- Some organizations against the use of animal dissection and live animal vivisection in schools or industry research include Peta, NAVS (National Anti-Vivisection Society), The Humane Society, and AAVS (American Anti-Vivisection Society).
Animal dissection is outdated and unnecessary. The unwarranted disrespect for life it demonstrates is incredibly hypocritical given the educational, scientific setting surrounding the practice. In any other context, encouraging children to pick apart dead animals is wrong, even appalling. Sanitation concerns and potential health risks alone are enough to discourage it, yet the acts become ingrained and institutionalized for reasons that are no longer justifiable. The learning process is often compromised by gruesome animal dissections, where no additional discoveries remain. Studies reveal a significant portion of students are uncomfortable with dissecting animals, and it can desensitize them to the value of life and nature.
Learning biology doesn't require sacrifice. Students prefer alternatives, which don't only suffice, they're superior. With digital models, possibilities are endless, and can even be supplemented with links to additional information, enhancing and extending lessons, allowing students to repeat physical dissection virtually that helps them retain information without doing any harm to animals. Digitized dissections are also far more ecologically sustainable. Programs and models aren't just a great solution for addressing known ethical concerns, discomfort, and distress among students and teachers; they're also much cheaper, less resource-demanding, and far less time-consuming than dissection.
Educational outcomes are superior when opting for animal-free methods. Primary and secondary schools are not in need of such a demonstration. Anyone wishing to study anatomy at an advanced level is likely motivated by intentions of preserving life, not taking it. It's irrational to promote unneeded animal cruelty in the name of life advocacy. Modern strategies are more efficient and effective with policies moving to reduce and ban required animal dissections in schools worldwide.
Animal dissection in schools is still a relevant and vital teaching tool. According to Edulab 'there is no substitute for the hands-on learning experience of dissection,' which is understandable as it's one of the only ways to get a 3-dimensional look into the body. Making connections between a cow heart and the human heart, for example, can, as Edulab says, 'allow students to learn how their own bodies work within the confines of the classroom' in a way that sticks with a child or teen for longer than looking at a black and white paper diagram. This is because dissection is hands-on and involves many more senses.
In a study done to research the opinions of teachers on in-class dissection, Jan Oakely, writing for the IJESE, wrote, 'It was clear that the majority of teacher participants found unparalleled value in traditional dissection, as 87.5% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, 'Real animal dissection is important to the teaching of biology.'' Likewise, 'more than half (56.3%) [of teachers] agreed or strongly agreed that ‘there are no substitutes for real animal dissection.'' Even dissecting organs in 3-dimensional computer programs were not considered as useful, as Oakley reports, 'they are 'overly perfect' and unable to showcase abnormalities.' But simulations are, unfortunately, one of the only other options in replacement of animal dissection. Dissection is undoubtedly an essential part of teaching biology, though, if students don't want to dissect an animal, teachers cannot force them to do so. Regardless, dissection is still a valuable teaching tool for schools and will be for years to come.