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Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints: Dissection is wasteful and uneducational

By Brittany Bishop
Published: June 2010

Every year, millions of animals are killed for dissection in schools and universities in the United States, with an estimated 170 different animals species used. From animal brains to fetal pigs, the spectrum of dissection seems to be endless. Providers ship animals all over the country for students to cut up with scalpels and other tools as a part of scientific education.

What is the main point of dissection, you may be wondering. It is to learn about the bones, muscles, and internal organs of the designated animal. In the case of AP and Honors Biology classes at South, teachers force students to cut up poor fetal pigs, each of which is only approximately the age of three months out of the four-month birth cycle. Therefore, the pigs are mostly developed for the students to observe. Other animals are also dissected for classes such as Anatomy and Physiology.

Most people understand the basic concept of dissection: cut up the animal, observe the body parts, learn their names, and take a recognition test. What people do not know is how providers obtain the animals in the first place. For our fetal pigs, for example, slaughterhouse workers, who disregard the fact that the mother pigs are pregnant, kill pigs for meat. Upon slaughter, the employees take out the fetal babies, send them off to a lab to be prepared, fill their veins with latex, and then submerge them into formaldehyde to preserve the body. A truly lovely picture, right?

Although I have no objection to eating meat, for it is a primal and natural instinct of all animals, the idea of cutting up a poor, innocent animal for solely knowledge seems completely illogical. After having multiple classes with the burden of the experiments, I have learned very little, even after being forced to use tools upon the pigs and watch the dissection closely. Teachers try to show us where the body parts are with the aid of an educational guidebook; however, many of the people in the Biology classes have learned barely any facts from the direct dissection itself. In reality, basic pictures or virtual dissection would suffice for learning anatomy.

Besides moral objection, the idea of dissection can be nauseating. Sitting in biology class on the first day of dissection was a nightmare.

The first cracking open of the bucket, filled with chemicals and pigs and the image of the lifeless body being pulled out of the container will scar me forever. That same night, simple pieces of meat, all of which were not pork, repulsed me to the point where I could not eat them because they resembled body parts of the poor animal that we had to dissect earlier in the day.

Along with the animal itself, the smell of formaldehyde does not ease the stomach any more than a decaying animal. Any time that I smell something that even slightly resembles the chemical, a feeling of nausea overcomes me because I immediately return back to the image of a dead animal.

What upset me the most was the relative lack of alternatives for dissection, or at the least the reluctance of teachers to allow students to have a substitute or a choice. After asking my teacher to perform virtual dissection, which South does provide for students, I was so kindly refused. Virtual dissection, especially if filled with informational diagrams and photos, teaches students the same concepts that a dead animal does. Other options include detailed models of animal anatomy.

A combination of the two forms of education provides students to learn both hands- on and factual information of animals just as well as any real dissection. The alternatives from the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and the Norwegian Inventory of Audiovisuals contain thousands of substitutional methods for animal use in education.

Dissection should not necessarily be removed from schools, but there should be a choice for students to decide whether or not they want to perform the procedure. Teachers should ask their students prior to dissection whether or not they want to participate, while also giving them a choice for alternative suggestions. By giving students a choice, animals can be saved, mental scarring can be avoided, and morals can be upheld within the student body.

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