Remember that scene from E.T. when Elliott frees all frogs in his science class? Elliott reminds me of my younger son Tim, who probably would have done the same thing (without being inebriated)!
This past weekend, Tim returned to college, where he is thinking of majoring in biology. He brought up an interesting issue: Would he be required to dissect an animal even if it is against his beliefs? Are alternatives provided for these students?
When I was a student, I didn’t have a choice. In both junior high and high school, I dissected a fetal pig. Each student had his/her own animal to dissect.
But with the rise of animals rights groups, PETA being the most visible, I wondered if times had changed. Do students have a choice? Are there alternative ways for students to learn about anatomy that don’t harm animals?
I discovered a site called Dissection Alternatives (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) that explores these issues and offers lots of practical solutions. I was surprised to learn that research has shown that animal-friendly alternatives to teaching students about anatomy and biology are just as effective as the traditional methods of dissection. Computer software can now provide detailed, sophisticated graphics, interactive features, videos, and in-depth accompanying text to help students learn about anatomy. UPDATE: We recently learned about the first virtual reality frog dissection software called V-Frog (from Tactus Tech).
I was also surprised to learn that the majority of medical schools often use these alternatives rather than traditional animal dissection. In addition, The National Science Teachers Association recently amended its official position statement on animal use, approving the use of non-animal alternatives as replacements for dissection.
Dissection Alternatives sponsors the Cut Above Awards, which honors teachers and students who have taken great leaps to adopt humane alternatives to dissection.
Dissection Alternatives also provides information about the following:
- What students can do to make their school dissection-free.
- Information about dissection alternatives (commercial, online, etc).
- A list of states that allow student choice regarding dissection.
If you have some thoughts about animal dissection, or have some experience using these dissection alternatives, please leave us a comment!