There is no way to make death okay. That seems to be a generally accepted belief, right? Then, why are we killing millions upon millions of animals each year for classroom experiments and dissections? How can we excuse that as education when there are so many humane options to consider as replacements?
Alright, since you’ll probably just mock any moral argument I make, I’ll start with some facts. Almost nobody remembers what they learned during dissections. I, for example, don’t remember a single idea I learned during the squid dissection I was forced into during sixth grade.
As a matter of fact, the president of NEAVS (New England Anti-Vivisection Society), Theodora Capaldo, has written several papers on the effects of dissections on children’s’ opinions of science. She claims, “If forced to participate, these students suffer severe psychological trauma as the result of seeing themselves or others engaged in behavior that they find ethically objectionable yet sanctioned by authorities. Their cognitive abilities may become impaired, resulting in less learning. They may withdraw and lose interest in science. Students—even those who believe they are willing participants—become desensitized and may develop a utilitarian view of animals, thereby diminishing their capacity for compassion and ethical decision-making.”
Doesn’t that seem like a lot of damage to cause children simply because you won’t consider other options?
Capaldo also links this to the gender gap in science, saying the women are statistically more likely to feel the moral imbalance of dissections and sometimes feel they would rather sacrifice their career than their morals.
Now, I want you to stop and think for a second. Would you dissect the little guy you see below?
I don’t think you would. But cats are actually one of the most commonly dissected animals worldwide, with tens of thousands of them dying each year for the sake of “science”. Did you know that we have laws against animal abuse in every single state? Yet we teach kids as early as elementary school that there are acceptable excuses for killing a defenseless animal.
In fact, many psychologists theorize that this leads to the idea that hurting or even killing animals is completely justifiable, which can cause people to break the federal law against animal cruelty.
But, fear not, that’s not the only way to learn about them. There are dozens of free 3D alternatives to dissections, including McGraw Hill’s Virtual Frog Dissection and AnatomyCorner.com’s Cow Eye, both of which would be of particular use to Stacey’s biology students.
An even more realistic option is dissection models. They look almost exactly like the real thing with organs, veins, and other elements of the organism’s structure present in exactly the right spots. And, while they’re not free like the websites, they cost significantly less than the carcasses schools blow money on every single year. Actually, school’s can spend over three thousand dollars more on the dead specimen than on the models, as shown in Animalearn’s cost comparison. Not to mention, these much more compassionate options are often reusable.
Many people don’t realize that across the country, more and more districts are opening up alternative options to dissections. In fact, the Westminster School District, alongside the rest of California, is legally required to provide an alternative option for students who don’t approve of the process. So, if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of opening up a once-living being, speak up! It’s up to you!
Now, something important to note is that I’m not being squeamish or girly or weak; I’m internalizing the fact that the poor guy on the tray in front of me was once a living, breathing, feeling creature. I just simply can’t overlook that.