School’s Out! Plan Now For Humane Education in the Coming Year

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on June 21, 2011

As the school year winds down, students, teachers and parents reflect on their accomplishments of the past year and their hopes and dreams for the coming academic year. It’s a good opportunity to consider how animals are used in education and whether their treatment is humane. In particular, the frequent use of dissection in K-12 education brings up many ethical issues that some states have addressed in law.

What’s wrong with dissection?

  • Millions of animals are killed every year for dissection. Over 170 species are used, including cats, frogs, pigs, rabbits, mink, bats, sea creatures, etc.
  • Considering the large number of animals involved, selling animals for dissection is big business. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the nation’s largest biological supply company alone grosses $25 to $30 million annually in sales of animals for dissection. Suppliers for the dissection industry may have no regard for how the animal victims lived or died. Animal dealers take many animals from the wild, disrupting ecosystems. They may acquire cats and dogs from shelters, “free to a good home” ads or outright pet theft. Dealers get other animals or body parts that are by-products of the meat or fur industry.
  • The act of dissecting animals may cause students to infer that animals’ lives are disposable, thereby desensitizing students to suffering and death.
  • Students may be exposed to toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, when handling preserved body parts.
  • Dissection is becoming outmoded considering the many excellent tools now available that provide students with educationally superior alternatives, usually at a cost savings for schools.

What can you do?

  • Find out if your state has a law or policies in place to allow students to opt out of dissection.
  • Find out if your school district has a policy about dissection by checking their website or by calling school administrators.
  • Get copies of any staff handbooks and student handbooks to see if staff and students are being notified about students’ rights to opt out of dissection.
  • If your school district needs to modernize their policy on dissection or to publicize their existing policy on dissection, now is a good time to contact school officials. They will be updating policies and staff/student handbooks prior to the upcoming school year.
  • If your state does not have a student choice law, contact your state legislators about introducing one in the next session.

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